The years between 1835 and 1859 constituted a formative period for the artist. There is a scarcity of documentation for a substantial part of Corot's middle years until 1851. Few letters exist and there are no real journals. It is known that he traveled throughout various regions of France and made some visits to Switzerland. In 1843, the artist journeyed for the third and last time to Italy.
It is known that Corot was extremely familiar with the landscape and peoples of Normandy. He studied in Rouen as an adolescent, and visited Normandy many times in the 1820s. Upon his return from his first visit to Italy in 1825, Corot traveled around his native country, finding different qualities in the various regions to add to his artistic repertoire, resulting in the serene and hazy landscapes of Ville d'Avray, the depictions of the wild and rugged countryside of the Auvergne, the deep forest of Fontainebleau, and his desire to capture the transparent and luminous light of Normandy.
Cour de petite ferme Normande is a prime example of the tranquil and reassuring images that contributed greatly to Corot's fame at the turn of the century. Pictures of tidy barnyards and kitchen yards appear frequently in the last twenty years of the artist's life, almost always populated with peasants going about their chores and farmyard beasts. These visions of timeless rural contentment appealed strongly to the French sensibility, and their rustic simplicity offered an alternative to the bustle of modern life. These rural scenes were a specialty of the painters of the Barbizon school, and it is with scenes such as Cour de petite ferme Normande that Corot most nearly approached the artistic temperament of his contemporaries. There is also a similarity with the painters of the French Realist tradition in the depiction of a simpler way of life. Perhaps in these paintings Corot comes closest to the essence of the paintings of Jean François Millet. While Millet monumentalized the peasant and the nobility of his labor, Corot here has emphasized the peace and serenity of a way of life. The emphasis is different; however, the sentiment is the same.
Although it cannot be proven that the painters who followed Corot and formed the Impressionist movement saw Corot's farmyard scenes, Camille Pissarro, who exhibited in the Salon during the 1860s as eleve de Corot perhaps provides the link between the Impressionists and the earlier master with paintings such as Cour de ferme from about 1863 and Coin de village of 1863.
This work has been authenticated by Martin Dieterle.
fig. 1. Camille Pissarro Cour de Ferme,1863
fig. 2. Camille Pissarro Cour de Village, 1863.