Lot 4
  • 4

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

300,000 - 500,000 GBP
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  • Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
  • Paysage Breton
  • signed COROT lower left
  • oil on canvas
  • 64.5 by 49cm., 25½ by 19¼in.


Michel Pascal, Paris (by 1875; his sale: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, April 1886)
Gadala collection, Paris (by 1905; probably Paul Gadala, who also owned works by Alfred Sisley and Pierre-Auguste Renoir)
Alphonse Kann, St. Germain-en-Laye (by 1936)
Arthur Tooth & Sons, London (inv. no. A2738)
Purchased from the above, probably by the father of the present owner; thence by descent


Paris, École Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Exposition de l'oeuvre de Corot, 1875, no. 177 (as Études [sic] de Bretagne avec figures)
Paris, Galeries Rosenberg, Grands Maîtres du XIXe siècle, 1922, no. 20
Prague, S.V.U Mánes, 1923, no. 54
London, New Burlington Galleries, Masters of French 19th Century Painting, 1936, no. 14 (as Brittany Landscape)
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (on intermittent loan from 2011 - 2017)


Théophile Silvestre, Histoire des artistes vivants, français et étrangers, peintres, sculpteurs, architectes, graveurs, photographes: études d'après nature, Paris, 1853, n. p., a photograph of the work by Victor Laisné illustrated (as Vue Prise A Ville-D'Avray (Environs de Paris) [sic]) 
Paul Mantz, 'Corot', in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1 July 1861, p. 425, an engraving by Eugène Lavieille after the painting  illustrated (as Environs de Paris); p. 431, discussed
Arsène Alexandre, 'Essai sur Corot', in Le monde moderne, Tome IV, Paris, 1896, p. 188, illustrated (as Paysage en Bretagne)
Alfred Robaut, L'Œuvre de Corot: Catalogue raisonné et illustré, Paris, 1905, vol. II, p. 178, no. 477, catalogued (as Paysage Breton - Une Paysanne et ses enfants assis au bord d'un sentier sous les arbres); p. 179, illustrated
Elie Faure, Corot, Paris, 1931, pl. 43, illustrated (as Paysage Breton)


The following condition report has been prepared by Hamish Dewar Ltd., 13 and 14 Mason's Yard, St James', London, SW1Y 6BU: UNCONDITIONAL AND WITHOUT PREJUDICE Structural Support The canvas is lined and is securely attached to what would appear to be the artist's original keyed wooden stretcher. This is ensuring an even and stable structural support. There is a stamp of the canvas manufacturer on the reverse of the lining canvas and two further smaller stamps are also visible. Paint surface The paint surface has an even varnish layer. The paint surface has an overall pattern of fine lines of craquelure. These appear entirely stable. Inspection under ultraviolet light shows very fine, carefully applied lines of retouching covering craquelure, including within the figures' clothing. There are also intermittent retouchings on the extreme edges of the composition. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in very good and stable condition.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Dated circa 1840-50 by Robaut, Paysage breton reveals Corot as a master of light and landscape. Supported by the work’s vertical format, the rhythmic, parallel birch tree trunks lend the scene a powerful sense of spatial recession, the architectural composition as sophisticated as any in the artist’s oeuvre. Within this structure is a subtle exploration of tonal contrasts, painted with great naturalness and sensitivity. Strips of dappled light fall across the undulating ground, as the eye is drawn through the scene to a clearing beyond. While the contrast between light and shade is one of the composition’s most notable features, closer inspection reveals such subtle details as the lilac of the backlit foliage in the upper centre, establishing Corot as the leading precursor of Impressionism.

Exhibited in the Corot retrospective in the year of the artist’s death, the present work’s importance was recognised by prominent critics writing during Corot’s lifetime. Reproducing the work in an engraving, Paul Mantz discussed it along with others such as The Harbour of La Rochelle, now in the Yale University Art Gallery:

'These canvases...are endlessly remarkable by their precise use of local colour, the sincerity of the accent and the rightness of the harmonies, a skill which M. Corot has mastered to perfection, and which words cannot do justice. The most gifted musicians cannot bring out the nuances of a melody more subtly than him.'

Curiously, while both early authors identified the subject as being near Paris, and one claimed it was Ville d’Avray (one of Corot’s most frequent subjects), in the catalogue of the 1875 retrospective and onwards the subject is said to be Brittany. Corot first visited Brittany in June-August of 1829 and returned on numerous occasions thereafter, including to Mûr-de-Bretagne in 1845. The composition itself offers little in the way of landmarks, however the seated woman wears a distinctively Breton lace coif hat. In his Breton views Corot was inspired by the same wooded, somewhat remote and rugged landscape which drew him to the Morvan in western Burgundy, from which his father's family hailed.

In its verticality, depth and composition, Paysage breton can be seen as a more naturalistic (and arguably more successful) counterpart to Corot’s mythological Silène, exhibited at the Salon of 1838. Monumental in size, the Minneapolis work is regarded as Corot’s work most influenced by Poussin, as he doggedly battled for recognition and official honours at the Salon. More intimate in scale and conception, in Paysage breton Corot integrated his figures more successfully into a composition which looks ahead to the modern view of landscape rather than back to the old masters. As Etienne Moreau-Nelaton noted, Corot’s role as the hinge between these two great French landscape traditions is central to an understanding of his work: ‘Corot never broke with tradition…he accomplished this tour de force by being at the same time the last of the classical landscapists and the first of the Impressionists’.