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Work Recollection of Mortefontaine

Department of Paintings: French painting

Souvenir of Mortefontaine

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

French painting

Pomarède Vincent

This elegiac evocation of the ponds of Mortefontaine, near Senlis, illustrates the artist's evolution after 1850: a light, quivering touch and a hazy atmosphere. Corot may have been influenced by the blur of early landscape photographs, of which he had a wide-ranging collection.

A carefully constructed recollection

In his studio the painter looks back to the ponds of Mortefontaine, near Ermenonville, which he often visited from 1850 onwards, studying the surface reflections and the play of light. This is, however, a carefully assembled recollection, bringing together all his memories. After 1850 Corot's work became lyrical and his technique deliberately more elliptical in its use of a poetically misty atmosphere. Recollection of Mortefontaine is a masterpiece from this period of his maturity.

Simple, rigorous composition

The simple rigorous compositional approach we see here is that arrived at by the 17th-century masters and learned by Corot from his teachers: in the foreground, a tree partially blocks the view, while behind it the pond stretches away into a bluish infinity merging with the sky. The gradually emerging atmosphere of spellbinding melancholy is created with a restricted palette in which the pale blues of sky and water harmonize with the browns and greens of the vegetation. The morning light effects have vanished. Compositional balance is achieved via the dissymmetry between the uncluttered right-hand side and, on the left, the three girls who replace the habitual pagan deities.

Acquired by the state

Recollection of Mortefontaine was one of the first Corots acquired directly from the artist, in 1864. It was bought through Napoleon III's civil list and after a period at Fontainebleau it went to the Louvre in 1889.

Technical description

  • Jean-Baptiste Camille COROT (Paris, 1796 - Paris, 1875)

    Souvenir of Mortefontaine

    Salon of 1864

  • Oil on canvas

    H. : 0,65 m. ; L. : 0,89 m.

  • 1889

    M.I. 692 bis

  • Paintings

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