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In the Light of Italy: Corot and Early Open-Air Painting

DATES October 11, 1996 through January 12, 1997
ORGANIZING DEPARTMENT European Painting and Sculpture
  • June 1, 1996 In the Light of Italy: Corot and Early Open-Air Painting, the first major exhibition to explore an important moment in the origin of modern landscape painting, will be presented at The Brooklyn Museum from October 11, 1996 through January 12, 1997. The exhibition comprises 130 paintings by 48 artists from a number of European countries, who worked in the Italian landscape between 1780 and 1840, establishing the first tradition of open-air painting. Featured in the exhibition are 19 works completed during the late 1820s by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875) during his first visit to Italy. Also included are works by Carl Blechen (1798-1840), Johan Christian DahI (1788-1857), François-Marius Granet (1775-1849), Thomas Jones (1742-1803), and Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes (1750-1819), among others.

    The artists worked in Rome, Naples, and the regions around those cities, recording their perceptions of particular sites. Their paintings foreshadow the [I]mpressionist awareness of light and atmosphere and the compositional innovations of photography. These small paintings represent direct experience in a way that enables the viewer to respond to them in modern terms, despite the fact that they were conceived as part of the artists’ preparation for a career in the prevailing academic mode, and were known only to a few friends and fellow artists.

    The works are, in part, responses to the profoundly new respect for both scientific observation and individual perception that marked the Enlightenment in western Europe. “The idea of landscape painting for its own sake, as a means of and metaphor for understanding man’s relation to the earth, was being born in this process,” writes Sarah Faunce, Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, The Brooklyn Museum, in the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition.

    The exhibition has been organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and The Brooklyn Museum, in association with the St. Louis Art Museum. The exhibition was curated by Sarah Faunce; Philip Conisbee, Curator of French Paintings, National Gallery of Art; and Jeremy Strick, Curator of Modern Art, St. Louis Art Museum; with guest curator, Peter Galassi, Curator of the Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The exhibition is made possible by a grant from The Florence Gould Foundation. It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. The presentation at The Brooklyn Museum is made possible, in part, by generous grants from The Florence Gould Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

    Since the Renaissance, artists from north of the Alps had been drawn to Rome to study the ruins of that city’s golden age that served as models for their own art. By the late 18th century, an increasing number of painters traveling to Italy, moved by the emergence of a new kind of attention to Nature in the early Romantic period, had a primary interest in landscape. By the 1820s, there was in Rome a substantial community of landscape painters from France, the German states, Holland and Belgium, the Scandinavian countries, and elsewhere in Europe.

    Corot arrived in Rome in 1826, when the open-air tradition was at its peak, and learned from the vibrant community of artists there. That Corot is the most widely known and respected open-air painter of the early 19th century is partly the result of his determination to maintain that tradition when he returned to France, where his work as a landscape painter remained solidly based on the practice of outdoor painting.

    Among the works by Corot featured in the exhibition is The Roman Campagna with the Claudian Aqueduct, an oil sketch that once belonged to Degas. Jeremy Strick writes in his catalogue essay, “It is from [Corot's Italian studies] that his relevance to the course of modern art has most frequently been asserted. By their openness to light and direct approach to nature, the oil studies were seen to anticipate Impressionism. By their solidity of form and classical structure, they look forward to Cézanne and [C]ubism. If today we understand Corot's Italian oil studies not as precocious anachronisms, but rather as heirs to, even the summation of, the tradition begun by Valenciennes, that only serves to heighten our appreciation for the artist's achievement."

    Artists Included in the Exhibition

    Théodore Caruelle d’Aligny
    French, 1798-1871

    Édouard Bertin
    French, 1797-1871

    Jean-Joseph-Xavier Bidauld
    French, 1758-1846

    Carl Blechen
    German, 1798-1840

    Antoine-Félix Boisselier
    French, 1790-1857

    Jacques-Raymond Brascassat
    French, 1804-1867

    Franz Ludwig Catel
    German, 1778-1856

    Gilles-François Closson
    Belgian, 1791-1842

    Léon Cogniet
    French, 1794-1880

    Jean-Antoine Constantin
    French, 1756-1844

    Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
    French, 1796-1875

    Johan Christian DahI
    Norwegian, 1788-1857

    Charles-François Daubigny
    French, 1817-1878

    Simon Denis
    Belgian, 1755-1812

    Johann Georg von Dillis
    German, 1759-1841

    Alexandre-Hyacinthe Dunouy
    French, 1757-1841

    Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg
    Danish, 1783-1853

    Johann Joachim Faber
    German, 1778-1846

    Thomas Fearnley
    Norwegian, 1802-1842

    Ernst Fries
    German, 1801-1833

    Louis Gauffier
    French, 1762-1801

    André Giroux
    French, 1801-1879

    François-Marius Granet
    French, 1775-1849

    Constantin Hansen
    Danish, 1804-1880

    Adolf von Heydeck
    German, 1787-1856

    Thomas Jones
    British, 1742-1803

    Johann Baptist Kirner
    German, 1806-1866

    Joseph August Knip
    Dutch, 1777-1847

    Christen Købke
    Danish, 1810-1848

    Georg Friedrich August Lucas
    German, 1803-1863

    Achille-Etna Michallon
    French, 1796-1822

    Friedrich Nerly
    German, 1807-1878

    François-Édouard Picot
    French, 1786-1868

    Heinrich Carl Reinhold
    German, 1788-1824

    Jean-Charles-Joseph Rémold
    French, 1795-1875

    Léopold Robert
    Swiss, 1794-1835

    Jørgen Roed
    Danish, 1808-1888

    Johann Martin von Rohden
    German, 1778-1868

    Jacques Sablet
    Swiss, 1749-1803

    Louise-Joséphine Sarazin de Belmont
    French, 1790-1870

    Johann Wilhelm Schirmer
    German, 1807-1863

    Gustaf Söderberg
    Swedish, 1799-1875

    Joseph Mallord William Turner
    British, 1775-1851

    Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes
    French, 1750-1819

    Claude-Joseph Vernet
    French, 1774-1789

    Carl Wagner
    German, 1796-1867

    Friedrich Wasmann
    German, 1805-1886

    Richard Wilson
    British, 1713-1782

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1995 - 2003. 07-12/1996, 078-81.
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