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
Franz Ludwig Catel
Johan Christian DahI
Johann Georg von Dillis
Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg
Johann Joachim Faber
Adolf von Heydeck
Johann Baptist Kirner
Joseph August Knip
Georg Friedrich August Lucas
Heinrich Carl Reinhold
Johann Martin von Rohden
Louise-Joséphine Sarazin de Belmont