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Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (Paris 1796-1875)
Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (Paris 1796-1875)

Les trois baigneuses

Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (Paris 1796-1875)
Les trois baigneuses
signed 'COROT' (lower left)
oil on canvas
18 x 15 in. (45.7 x 38.1 cm.)
Painted circa 1872-1873
Sold by the artist to M. Verdier, 1874.
M.W. Schauss, by 1884.
with Knoedler & Co. Inc., New York.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 16 February 1994, lot 39, where acquired by the present owner.
A. Robaut, L'oeuvre de Corot, catalogue raisonné et illustré, Paris, 1965, III, p. 384, no. 2429.

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Lot Essay

Called the 'patriarch of French landscape' by Jules Castagnary after the Salon of 1873, Corot to this day remains a doyen of nineteenth-century painting. His poetic treatment of light and his emphasis on atmospheric effects began a radical approach to landscape painting that proved indispensable to the development of Impressionism. The present painting, with its loose brushwork and close attention to capturing light as it filters through the trees and strikes the water's surface, illustrates Corot's critical importance for Impressionism. As if veiled by a misty morning light, Les trois baigneuses reveals itself slowly, as Corot intended. Aware of the subtlety of his paintings, Corot instructed his viewers that 'To enter fully into one of my landscapes, one must have the patience to allow the mists to clear, one only penetrates it gradually, and when one has, one should enjoy it there' (quoted in M. Clarke, Corot and the Art of Landscape, London, 1991, p. 89). Patient contemplation of Les trois baigneuses uncovers a dynamic patchwork of brushstrokes and vibrant punctuations of color that animate the surface of the painting.

As in the best examples of his work, Les trois baigneuses expresses Corot's sensitivity to his subject that is the foundation of his enduring legacy as 'The very poet of the landscape, who breathes the sadnesses and joys of nature. The bond, the great bond that makes us the brothers of rocks and trees, he sees it; his figures, as poetic as his forests, are not strangers to the woodlands that surround them. He knows more than anyone, he has discovered all the customs of boughs and leaves; and now that he is sure he will not distort their inner life, he can dispense with all servile imitation' (Theodore de Banville, 'Le Salon de 1861,' Revue fantaisiste 2, 1 July 1861, pp. 235-36).

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

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