Corot painted very few grand-scale pictures. Famous for sitting outside and painting from life, he worked on these large-scale compositions in the winter months, when he could work in his studio and contemplate, through these large works, the beauty of nature which had sustained him through the summer. Nymphes et faunes ranks among the masterpieces of these memory pictures.
Corot was also in some sense a theatre director. This characteristic of his work is predominant in his large works, for he organizes the composition in terms of light and space as though he was creating a stage - set. This is clearly apparent in Nymphes et faunes.
Apart from the purely formal aspects of the composition, there is always with Corot a deeper sentiment expressed through his art. Corot very often worked or simply walked in the forest at dusk, a time when the last birds were quiet and the nocturnal insects had not yet begun their light chirping. At this moment, filled with admiration for the landscape surrounding him, the artist felt an intense desire to transmit onto canvas this light, the forest, and his deepest emotions.
At this brief moment, when the entire universe seemed to be suspended in emptiness, light spirits would come from his brush to fill the void. At first, these figures appear in his paintings as phantoms, almost invisible, and gradually they take their places as players on the stage composed by the artist.
Another characteristic exhibited by Corot in Nymphes et faunes is that his paintings are always in motion: there is clearly a rhythm to the composition which makes the work similar to a well-composed musical piece. In this work, Corot is almost more musician than painter, with his rhythms layered one upon the other, pierced by crescendos. The curtain of trees in the middle-ground are as gentle as the undulation of a great wave, giving their softness to the light and anchoring the composition. Then, in the center of the painting, piercing the soft veil of trees, a single straight tree trunk bursts up through the middle of the painting. The distant horizon appears behind this tree, an invitation to the viewer to travel into the painting and in so doing, pay a visit to infinity.
We are grateful to Martin Dieterle for preparing this catalogue entry.
This work has been authenticated by Martin Dieterle.