Studio: international art — 60.1914

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Reminiscences of Corot


I became acquainted with Corot during the last
years of the reign of Napoleon III ; the painter
was then already well advanced in years, and I
was barely a young man. His deathoccurred
while I was still a student, and consequently I did
not profit as much as I should have desired from his
presence and his good counsel. But the impres-
sion that I, in common with all who knew him,
was left with was a profound
one, and it is always with the
keenest pleasure and an in-
terest which has increased
as I have grown older that I
recall the most minute details
of our meetings. Since those
days I have often chanced
to speak of Corot to other
artists, to collectors, to critics
and picture dealers, and
sometimes, though nowa-
days, alas ! not so often as
in past years, my interlocutor
will stop me to exclaim,

“ Ah ! you knew pere Corot?
so did I ! ” Immediately our
faces light up, our eyes
brighten, and at once a
communion, a bond of
sympathy, establishes itself between us. Without
referring to it in words we feel that we have shared
together the most rare privilege of having lived in
the times of one of those great artists of exceptional
character and remarkable personality, whom no
one will see again; and feeling ourselves thus
favoured by this good fortune we cannot but be
conscious, when face to face with those who speak
of Corot but who never saw him, of that “ If you
had known him . . . ! ” in which is expressed so
much more of regret than may be appreciated or
divined from the written word.

My father, a great lover of pictures, who had
already met Corot several times at the houses of
friends, invited him to spend some days at a
country place surrounded by delightful grounds
which he owned at Brunoy in the neighbourhood
of Paris. This was in the spring of 1868. I was
then at school in the capital, but on holidays I
used to take the earliest train home so as to be with
my people as quickly as possible. I remember
one morning as I entered the park catching

sight of Corot down one of the paths, standing in
his white blouse and talking to my father, ramming
the tobacco into his pipe as he chatted away. I
cannot say whether, as his contemporaries have
asserted, he had in his youth a somewhat common-
place appearance, but I can hardly believe that
they could have looked at him properly. His coun-
tenance when he was starting to paint must have
lit up and taken on quite another character. At
the time of which I write he possessed a superb
head which could not fail to inspire respect and
admiration. It is true that it offered no very

M. dubuisson’s UNCLE

characteristic features, nor evinced any pronounced
traits, but his eyes were astounding in their vivacity
and intelligence; under his fine head of white
hair, framing them like the mane of an old lion, they
looked out at you with such an expression of
kindliness and dignity that you felt no doubt of
being in the presence of a personage of distinction,
and no one ever felt inclined to adopt the least
familiarity towards him. His mouth was large and
very mobile, the chin square and energetic. Always
clean shaven, his complexion had that fresh colour
of a full-blooded man who passes much of his life
in the open air; holding himself upright, with
movements easy and brisk, without any weakness
or infirmity, his health as yet practically unim-
paired and his energy seemingly inexhaustible,
he represented; as it was said of Alexandre Dumas,
one of the forces of nature, and astonished all who
approached him,

I went forward to meet him, timid and nervous,
for since my childhood I had heard talk of him
amongst artists, and I knew their almost fanatical


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