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Ville d’Avray, Pond with Birch tree in front of Houses

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot

(1796 - 1875) | 874.1

Date : 1872-1873 | Medium : Oil on canvas

Corot would always keep the house at Ville d’Avray that his parents had purchased in 1817. The surrounding ponds and woods inspired a significant number of his works. Ville d’Avray, Pond with Birch Tree in front of Houses is one of the last of these timeless pastoral landscapes in which Poussin’s legacy is enriched by Constable’s plein air painting. Filled with happiness at being able to return to his beloved house at the end of the war, he worked there during the winter of 1872 -1873 for his friend Alfred Robaut, author of the first catalogue of his work, and produced a canvas that markedly distanced itself from tradition. With death approaching, the painter-poet knew, where to find the new areas of emphasis he wished to apply to his work.

Nymphs have been replaced by graceful villagers, reduced in proportion to playing only a minimal role, the clump of trees has been moved to the edge of the painting, while the limpid water of the pond and the sun-filled luminosity of the sky lighten the centre of the composition. The view is rendered in a highly readable way with the Cabassud houses and Corot’s property easily identifiable. The observation of reality is evident and the palette of gilded hues reflects the influence of the Impressionists. However the artist has not abandoned the strict requirement for balance that predominates in his work and which he expresses in these terms, ‘…what I am looking for is the form, the whole, the value of the tones […] That is why, for me, the colour comes after, because I love more than anything else the overall effect, the harmony of the tones, whereas there is something jolting about too much colour that I don’t care for.’