Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (French, 1796-1875)
Property of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (French, 1796-1875)

Deux bateliers en rivière

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (French, 1796-1875)
Deux bateliers en rivière
signed 'COROT' (lower left)
oil on canvas
16¼ x 13 in. (41.2 x 33 cm.)
Painted in 1871
Émile Seitter.
with Tedesco Frères, Paris, 1883.
Mr. and Mrs. Isaac D. Fletcher, New York.
By whom gifted to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1917.
A. Robaut, L'oeuvre de Corot - catalogue raisonné et illustré, Paris, 1905, vol. III, pp. 342-343, no. 2241, illustrated.
E. Clark, 'The Fletcher Collection at the Metropolitan Museum: The Landscapes', Art World and Arts & Decoration, 9 August 1918, p. 209.
'The Mr. and Mrs. Isaac D. Fletcher Collection', Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 13 March 1918, p. 60.
C. Sterling and M. Salinger, 'XIX Century', French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. II, New York, 1966, p. 68, illustrated.
Albany, New York State Museum, French Painters of Nature; The Barbizon School: Landscapes from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 22 May - 22 August 2004.

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Lot Essay

'I am fine', Corot wrote to a friend in 1871. 'I'm working as if I were seventy' (Corot, letter to Jean Rochenoir, 29 August 1871, quoted in Robaut, 1905, vol. 4, no. 211, p. 345). During the last ten years of his life, public affection for Corot deepened. His popularity had not waned toward the end of his career and collectors and dealers alike waited impatiently for his paintings to dry so they could be released from his studio. At the Salon he continued to be a success, although now that he was either on the jury or hors concours, his work was automatically accepted.

By the 1870s, Corot had been painting and exhibiting for over fifty years and was the recognized patriarch of French landscape painting. Jules Castagnary, Corot's longtime supporter and established art critic, delivered the following upon viewing two works by the artist in the Salon of 1873: 'If fame came to him late, talent did not. In the revolution begun by Constable's two paintings, he was there, enrolled with the innovators. He saw the school born and saw it grow, himself developing and evolving through the double action of years of reflection... When one thinks that the hand that placed these deft touches carries the weight of seventy-seven years, such fortitude comes as a surprise and a marvel. The illustrious old man is the lone survivor of a vanished past' (J. A. Castagnary, 'Salon de 1873' in J. A. Castagnary, Salons (1857-1870), Paris, 1892, vol. 2, p. 73).

In Deux bateliers en rivière, Corot once again proves himself the perfect 'poet of the landscape'. The motif of boatmen on a placid body of water arched by trees recurs often in the paintings of Corot's late career. In the present work, two boatmen punt their way slowly to shore in the fading light of the day, the evening sky just tinged with the pinks and golds of sunset. The soft light lends a velvety texture to the trees and the surface of the river reflects the blues and pinks of the early evening sky. In the center of the composition is what appears to be the belfry of distant Douai, with its distinctive tower and four turrets. It is possible that this painting was inspired by a trip to northern France in early 1871, during which the artist stayed in Douai with his friend, Alfred Robaut. Robaut made a drawing after the painting while it was still unfinished, although it is unknown whether this was in Douai or in Corot's studio in Paris later in the year.

We are grateful to Martin Dieterle and Claire Lebeau for confirming the authenticity of this painting.

(fig. 1) Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, The Belfry of Douai, Louvre, Paris/Giraudon/The Bridgeman Art Library.

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