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Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875)

Honfleur, Maisons sur les quais

Details
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875)
Honfleur, Maisons sur les quais
stamped 'Vente COROT' (lower right)
oil on canvas
15 1/8 x 21 5/8 in. (38.4 x 54.9 cm.)
Painted circa 1830
Provenance
Estate of the artist; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 26 May 1875, lot 51.
M. Lefevre, Roubaix, France; sale, Galeries Georges Petit, Paris, 4 May 1896, lot 9.
Dr. Paul Georges Dieulafoy Paris (by 1911).
Edgar, Marquis de Rochecouste, Paris (by 1922).
Wildenstein & Co., Inc., (probably) Paris.
Alma Terlinden, Männedorf, Switzerland (by 1930).
Wildenstein & Co. Inc., New York (by late 1946).
Acquired from the above by the late owners, December 1950.
Literature
E. Moreau-Nélaton, Histoire de Corot et de ses oeuvres, Paris, 1905, p. 44 (illustrated, fig. 41; titled Honfleur).
A. Robaut, L'Œuvre de Corot, Catalogue raisonné et illustré, Paris, 1905, vol. II, pp. 78-79, no. 223 (illustrated).
G. Janneau, "Les Grandes Expositions, Maîtres du siècle passé," La Renaissance de l'art français et des industries de luxe, no. 1, January 1922, p. 341 (illustrated, titled Maisons sur les quais a Honfleur).
E. Moreau-Nélaton, Corot, Raconté par lui-même, Paris, 1924, p. 29 (illustrated, fig. 38; titled Honfleur).
J. Meier-Graefe, Corot, Berlin, 1930 (illustrated, pl. X; titled Honfleur).
R. Jean, Corot, Paris, 1931, no. 10 (illustrated; titled Honfleur-Maison sur les quais).
"Le Visage de la France vu par nos artistes, III.-La Normandie," L'Art et les artistes, no. 143, January 1934, p. 123 (illustrated).
E. Faure, Corot, Paris, 1935 (illustrated, no. 3; titled Honfleur).
A. Watt, "A Zurich, L'Exposition Corot," Beaux-Arts, La Chronique des arts et de la curiosité, no. 92, 5 October 1934, p. 1 (illustrated; titled La lieutenance à Honfleur).
"Corot" in L'amour de l'art, no. II, February 1936, p. 47 (illustrated, fig. 21; titled Les quais de Honfleur).
P. Diolé, "L'Exposition Corot, D'Oeuvre en oeuvre," Beaux-Arts, La Chronique des arts et de la curiosité, no. 164, 21 February 1936, pp. A-B (illustrated; titled Les quais de Honfleur).
Emporium, vol. LXXXVI, October 1937, p. 529 (illustrated).
G. Bazin, Corot, Paris, 1942, pp. 40 and 113, no. 23 (illustrated, pl. 25; titled Le port de Honfleur).
"Wartime New York Sees Serene Corot World," The Art Digest, vol. 17, no. 4, 15 November 1942, p. 5 (illustrated; titled Honfleur).
"Corot in Retrospect: A Note on the Loan Exhibition," The Connoisseur, April 1943, p. 66 (illustrated).
P. Courthion and P. Cailler, Corot, Raconté par lui-même et par ses amis, Paris, 1946, p. 221, no. 6 (illustrated, opposite p. 64; titled Le port de Honfleur).
H. Uhde-Bernays, Corot, Bern, 1948, no. 8 (illustrated; titled Honfleur).
D. Baud-Bovy, Corot, Geneva, 1957 (illustrated).
F. Fosca, Corot, Sa vie et son oeuvre, Brussels, 1958 (illustrated).
"Corots Brought to National Gallery," The Times, 8 October 1965 (titled Houses at Honfleur).
J. Leymarie, Corot, Geneva, 1966, p. 44 (illustrated, p. 41).
M. Potter et al., The David and Peggy Rockefeller Collection: European Works of Art, New York, 1984, vol. I, pp. 104-105, no. 18 (illustrated; titled Houses on the Quay, Honfleur).
J. Selz, La vie et l'oeuvre de Camille Corot, Paris, 1988, p. 94 (illustrated).
G. Tinterow, M. Pantazzi, and V. Pomarède, Corot, exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 1996, p. 37, footnote 4 and p. 109 footnote 2.
Exhibited
Paris, Paul Rosenberg, Grands maîtres du dix-neuvième siècle, May-June 1922, no. 16.
Paris, Paul Rosenberg, Exposition d'oeuvres de Corot: Paysages de France et Figures, June-July 1930, no. 4.
Kunsthaus Zürich, Corot, August-October 1934, p. 38, no. 37 (illustrated).
Paris, Musée de L'Orangerie, Corot, 1936, p. 9, no. 17 (illustrated, pl. III).
Musée de Lyon, Corot, May-June 1936, p. 7, no. 13 (illustrated, pl. II).
London, New Burlington Galleries, Masters of French Nineteenth Century Painting, October 1936, p. 14, no. 10.
Geneva, Musée d'art et d'histoire, Le Paysage Français avant les Impressionnistes, February-March 1937, p. 10, no. 21.
Paris, Exposition Internationale, Chefs d'oeuvre de l'art français, vol. 1, summer 1937, p. 418, no. 158 (illustrated).
Paris, La Gazette des beaux-arts and Kunsthaus Zürich, La peinture française du XIXe siècle en Suisse, May-July 1938, pp. 10-11, no. 22 (illustrated, pl. VII).
New York, Wildenstein & Co. Inc., The Serene World of Corot, November-December 1942, p. 16, no. 12 (illustrated).
Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, Small Paintings by Corot, November-December 1943, no. 4 (titled Houses on the Quay, Honfleur).
The Art Gallery of Toronto, Loan Exhibition of Great Paintings in Aid of Allied Merchant Seamen, February-March 1944, pp. 15-16, no. 14 (illustrated).
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Corot, May-June 1946, p. 28, no. 12 (illustrated).
The Toledo Museum of Art and the Art Gallery of Toronto, The Spirit of Modern France, 1745-1946, November 1946-February 1947, no. 32 (illustrated).
The Art Gallery of Toronto, J.B.C. Corot, January-February 1950, no. 7.
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Masterpieces from Museums and Private Collections, November-December 1951, no. 32 (illustrated; titled Harbour at Honfleur).
New York, Paul Rosenberg & Co., Loan Exhibition of Paintings by J.B.C. Corot, November-December 1956, pp. 10 and 16, no. 8 (illustrated).
The Art Institute of Chicago, Corot, An Exhibition of His Paintings and Graphic Works, October-November 1960, p. 17, no. 27 (illustrated).
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Birth of Impressionism, March-April 1963, no. 14 (illustrated; titled Bassin d'Honfleur).
Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Academy and London, National Gallery, Corot, An Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings and Prints, August-November 1965, no. 21 (illustrated, no. 7).
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Corot, October-December 1969, no. 6 (illustrated; titled Bassin l'Honfleur).
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is a lot where Christie’s holds a direct financial guarantee interest.

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Lot Essay

"There is only one master here–Corot. We are nothing compared to him, nothing."
Claude Monet, 1897

"He is still the strongest. He anticipated everything."
Edgar Degas, 1883

We are grateful to Claire Lebeau for confirming the authenticity of this work.
Upon his return from the first trip to Italy in 1828, Corot concentrated on ways to develop the experience he had gained and the pictorial material he had amassed during those three formative years. Overwhelmed by the beauty of Italy, the young artist began painting nature for its own sake and for the pure pleasure of it. Relatively little is known about the time between his return from Italy in 1828 and his second trip in 1834, but it appears that he traveled frequently, searching the countryside of France for landscapes that inspired him. Corot sought variety, exploring the different qualities in different regions: the serenity and hazy atmosphere of Ville d’Avray, the wild and rugged landscape around the Forest of Fontainebleau, the thick forests of the Morvan and the transparent and luminescent light of Normandy. The views he painted entirely or partially from nature on his return from Italy are among the most beautiful and accomplished in his oeuvre.
The port of Honfleur at the mouth of the Seine in Normandy figured frequently in the work of the artists of the Impressionist generation after Charles Baudelaire’s visit of 1859 when he discovered the work of Eugène Boudin. Artists had been visiting this picturesque port since the end of the 18th century. Richard Parkes Bonington, Joseph Mallord William Turner, Paul Huet, Eugène Isabey and of course Corot were all guests at the celebrated inn at the Saint-Simeon farm, run by Mère Toutain and her daughter, who later played host to Gustave Courbet, Johan Bertold Jongkind, Boudin and the young Claude Monet. By choosing to paint in Honfleur, Corot was also following in the footsteps of his teacher Achille Michallon, who had painted in the ports along the Normandy coast as well.
The exact dates of Corot’s visits to Normandy and to Honfleur in particular before 1825 are unclear, although some fifteen paintings featuring the landscape around Honfleur are documented by Robaut and Moreau-Nélaton. It is clear that what attracted the artist about Honfleur at this time was its port–the play of light on water, the rigging of the ships and the fishermen's houses. In 1830, Corot definitely stayed on the Normandy coast for a part of August and September, painting mostly the ocean and boats. The present canvas is the only work from this visit depicting the houses in the port.
These paintings exemplify an approach to landscape painting that was realistic, intimate and faithful to the topography of the actual site. They represent a new vision, which was also evident in the work of Joseph Mallord William Turner and John Constable, and which would ultimately form the basis for the Impressionist movement in France. The critics of the day appreciated this unique sensibility that runs throughout Corot’s oeuvre and saw in it the seeds of the new painting in France. Andre Michel, writing in 1896 and with the benefit of hindsight, observed, "If one could place on one side of a gallery the ‘official’ compositions that Corot painted in his first years-following the rules and for submission to the Salon to be judged by his masters and the public–and on the other side the…studies that he made on his own…one would be struck by the deep differences between them. He seems as constrained and forced in the one group as he is spontaneous, original and charming in the other" (Notes sur l’art modern (peinture): Corot, Ingres, Millet, Eug. Delacroix, Raffet, Meissonier, Puvis de Chavannes. À travers les Salons, Paris, 1896, p. 14).
Honfleur, Maisons sur les quais provides a unique glimpse into the innate talent of the great master, created as it was before the artist had received any formal instruction in landscape painting. Here we see the young Corot’s artistic talent in its raw state and understand the devotion of the artists of the Impressionist movement he inspired. We see the ability to render beautiful, clear light delineated by an astonishingly economic use of color and brushwork. Each stroke is just enough to describe the desired sensation; each detail is beautifully rendered. Corot’s unique style, an aesthetic sensibility which would contribute to the re-orientation of the art of landscape painting, is already at hand. Corot sought to render the effects of light without any concessions to the picturesque. Gone is the underlying, precise drawing which was the basis of landscape painting up to that time. The fluidity and honesty of his palette, characteristics of Corot’s mature landscapes, are already evident here. Honfleur, Maisons sur les quais is the extraordinary result of a young artist’s exploration into the play of light on sky, stone, and water, seen through the transparent light of an afternoon along the Normandy coast. The palpable presence of Corot's large, rapid brushstrokes brings to mind the work of artists who followed after, such as Boudin and Jongkind and look forward to the work of the Impressionists, including Corot’s student Camille Pissarro.

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