Reading Room

Straight up, the best thing about being on holiday (aside from the good food, booze, friends, family and sun/sea/sandals special) is the reading room it gives you. Out in Italy (poolside as I type), here are some of the things I am enjoying NOT reading right now:

1. Emails (the boring ones)

2. Bills and bank statements

3. Letters from our building berating us for bringing food and beverage into the pool area

4. The manual for our new TV remote

5. The shopping list

6. The back-to-the-shopping list, with the things on I forgot the first time

And here are the things I AM enjoying reading:

1. Trashy magazines (purely to keep my finger on the pulse, you understand)

2. Recipes for what we’ll cook tonight

3. Protection details on the side of a sunscreen bottle

4. Books, books and more books

Reading (the right things) is relaxing, no two ways about it, we’ve all read the statistics that prove as much. I’m guessing it’s because going into a good book lets you get into another world, and opens up fresh vistas for the mind’s eye. It was this thought that sprang instantly to mind when I saw this painting for the first time: it’s called Forest of Fontainebleau (1834), by the French artist Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796 – 1875). Corot started out working in the family drape business, but moved over to art with the help of an allowance from his father: good thing too, as he evolved a sublime and separate style that became key to the development and direction of French art.

This work is a biggun’ and says all sorts of things, about Corot’s training and the tastes of the times: the academic landscape tradition was being re-booted right now and Forest of Fontainebleau was proudly put on show at the Salon of 1834. It’s a hybrid ‘historic landscape’, lifted beyond the bog-standard landscape by the figure in the foreground. Now for me, this picture was an obvious pick, since the reading woman tied nicely to the ‘book-reading opens up new worlds’ thing. But Corot’s contemporaries would have taken one look at the loose-haired, peasant-dressed, wilderness-bound woman and spotted Mary Magdalene. The tiny deer springing in the distance completes the classic attributes of the saint.

This forest is far more than a formulaic academic image: Corot is more of a mover and shaker than that. Though this was done in-studio, Corot had started the painting en plein-air (outdoors) push, and based this on sketches and studies done outside. Corot’s radical move beyond the studio, spurred by the need to make accurate the appearance of the natural world, had him develop a freer, more natural style within he classical French tradition.

Here there’s a sensitive treatment of light: see it shining through the canopies of leaves and over the sunken river bed. He tends to use a limited range of colors, aiming to achieve form and depth through subtle tonal relationships of light and dark. His creamy, dreamy surface texture comes through with his use of small and quick brushstrokes. In many ways this man anticipated Impressionist landscapes and, though he declined to participate in the first Impressionist exhibition, what he did on his canvases caught the imaginations of pupils and followers including Pissarro, Morisot, Renoir, Monet, and Sisley. I suppose like a good book, Corot cleaved open a whole new world of possibilities for them.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe & Share
@HeadforArt
Art 2010 Archives
Recent Comments
  • pittsburgh home addition contractors commented on Squirrel Story 
  • Today, I went to the beachfront with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 yesar old daughter and said "You can hear the ocean...
  • Donny commented on Sheets to the Wind 
  • I read a lot of interesting posts here. Probably you spend a lot of time writing, i know how to save you a lot of time, there is an online...
  • Davis commented on ¿Te Gusta? 
  • Neat blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere? A design like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog jump out....
  • Christen commented on Buying into Sport 
  • I loved as much as you will receive carried out right here. The sketch is attractive, your authored material stylish. nonetheless, you command get bought an shakiness over that you...
  • Milo commented on Hair Raising 
  • Hi! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward...
  • Mimosa commented on Sweet Success 
  • Calnlig all cars, calling all cars, we're ready to make a deal.
  • Victor commented on Snowed In 
  • Yesterday, while I was at work, my cousin stole my apple ipad and tested to see if it can survive a twenty five foot drop, just so she can be...
  • Buffee commented on Ring Out 
  • I'm imrepssed you should think of something like that
  • Rogelio commented on Boob Job 
  • Hi there colleagues, how is all, and what you would like to say regarding this article, in my view its in fact awesome in favor of me.
  • Zaylin commented on Happy Christus 
  • That's a sensible answer to a chelalnging question
    HfA Around Town
    Also find Head for Art - Art 2010 at these DC sites:

    TBD Community Network Member - All Over Washington

    DCist