Fontainebleau: Oak Trees at Bas-Bréau

Camille Corot (French, Paris 1796–1875 Paris)
1832 or 1833
Oil on paper, laid down on wood
15 5/8 x 19 1/2 in. (39.7 x 49.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1979
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 964
Corot painted this study in the summer of 1832 or 1833 in Bas-Bréau, a section of Fontainebleau forest that was famous for its immense oak trees. It was executed in the naturalistic style that he had previously developed in Italy. The tree reappears in Hagar in the Wilderness, the large canvas he exhibited at the 1835 Paris Salon. Improbably, in his realization of that biblical scene, Corot transplanted the oak from northern France to the Palestine desert.
Corot gave this work to his friend Célestin Nanteuil (1813–1873), who made a reproductive lithograph after Hagar.
Inscription: Inscribed (verso): Cette étude de mon maître Corot peinte vers 1830 / qui lui a servi pour son tableau d'Hagar dans le désert / fut donné [par lui à?] Célestin Nanteuil en 183[5?] / Je l'ai retrouvé en fort mauvais état en 1884 / à Ma . . . lle [Marseille?] Je l'ai nettoyée et fait mettre / sur Panneau dans l'état où elle se trouve / Corot l'estimait comme une de ses meilleurs. / Français (This study by my master Corot painted about 1830 / which he used for his painting of Hagar in the desert / was given [by him to?] Célestin Nanteuil in 183[5?] / I rediscovered it in very bad condition in 1884 / at Ma . . . lle [Marseille?] I cleaned it and had it put / on panel, its present state. / Corot considered it one of his best. / Français)
Célestin Nanteuil (from 183[5?]; given to him by the artist); M. and Mme Larrieu (probably from 1873); Mme Larrieu; François Louis Français (1884–at least 1896); sale, William Doyle Galleries, New York, May 16, 1979, no. 1, as School of Corot; Simon Parks, New York (1979); sale, Sotheby's, New York, October 12, 1979, no. 222; [E. V. Thaw, New York, 1979; sold to MMA]
Paris. Exposition Internationale Universelle. "Exposition centennale de l'art français (1789–1889)," May–November 1889, no. 148 (as "Études de chênes à Fontainebleau," 1830).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Landscapes by French Artists, 1780–1880," November 17, 1987–February 14, 1988, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Barbizon: French Landscapes of the Nineteenth Century," February 4–May 10, 1992, no catalogue.

Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Corot 1796–1875," February 27–May 27, 1996, no. 35 (as "Fontainebleau. Chênes noirs du Bas-Bréau").

Ottawa. National Gallery of Canada. "Corot 1796–1875," June 21–September 22, 1996, no. 35.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Corot," October 29, 1996–January 19, 1997, no. 35.

Albany. New York State Museum. "French Painters of Nature; The Barbizon School: Landscapes from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," May 22–August 22, 2004, no catalogue.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920," February 4–May 6, 2007, no. 7.

Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Französische Meisterwerke des 19. Jahrhunderts aus dem Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 1–October 7, 2007, unnumbered cat.

Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe. "Camille Corot: Natur und Traum," September 29, 2012–January 20, 2013, no. 46.

L[éon]. Roger-Milès. Les artistes célèbres. Vol. 32, Corot. Paris, [1891], p. 84, as "Étude de chênes, à Fontainebleau"; dates it 1830.

André Michel. Notes sur l'art moderne (peinture). Paris, 1896, p. 18, dates it 1833 and identifies the site as Fontainebleau; states that two years later Corot used this sketch for "Hagar in the Wilderness" (The Met 38.64).

Alfred Robaut. L'Œuvre de Corot: Catalogue raisonné et illustré. [reprint 1965]. Paris, 1905, vol. 2, pp. 98–99, no. 278, ill.; vol. 4, p. 286, calls it "Fontainebleau—Chênes noir du Bas-Bréau" and dates it 1830–35.

Alfred Robaut. Documents sur Corot. [about 1905], vol. 2, p. 10 [Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Cabinet des Estampes], mentions an apocryphal signature at the lower left [removed by an unknown private restorer in the summer of 1979]; identifies the forest as Bas Bréau, not far from "la reine blanche" .

Charles S. Moffett and Anne Wagner in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1979–1980. New York, 1980, p. 43, ill., date it summer 1832 or 1833 while Corot lived in Chailly; note that the Bas-Bréau section of the forest of Fontainebleau is famous for its oak trees; remark that the use of this sketch for "Hagar in the Wilderness" (The Met 38.64) provides a contrast in method and execution between a study from nature and a studio work intended for exhibition.

Peter Galassi in Claude to Corot: The Development of Landscape Painting in France. Ed. Alan Wintermute. Exh. cat., Colnaghi. New York, 1990, p. 246, fig. 17, dates it 1830–34 and comments that the use of this study in "Hagar in the Wilderness" (The Met 38.64) demonstrates that "open-air painting was not isolated from the grand ambitions of the studio".

Peter Galassi. Corot in Italy: Open-Air Painting and the Classical-Landscape Tradition. New Haven, 1991, p. 81, pl. 95.

Vincent Pomarède in Corot. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1996, pp. 90–91 no. 35, ill. (color) [French ed., "Corot 1796–1875," Paris, 1996, p. 138, no. 35, ill. p. 139 (color)], calls it one of the most vigorous and precise studies Corot made at Fontainebleau.

Michael Pantazzi in Corot. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1996, p. 156, fig. 71 [French ed., "Corot 1796–1875," Paris, 1996, p. 208, ill. p. 197].

Manuel Jover and Vincent Pomarède. "Camille Corot." Beaux Arts [special exhibition issue for "Corot 1796–1875"] (1996), fig. 48 (color).

Vincent Pomarède. "Corot." Connaissance des arts [special exhibition issue for "Corot, 1796–1875"] (1996), p. 32.

Louise d'Argencourt in The Cleveland Museum of Art Catalogue of Paintings: Part Four., European Paintings of the 19th Century. Cleveland, 1999, vol. 2, pp. 479–81 n. 3, fig. 167a, discusses its inspiration for Célestin François Nanteuil's "In the Forest" (1841, Cleveland Museum of Art); notes that Madame Larrieu was a mutual friend of Nanteuil and Français and that she probably obtained the picture in 1873 after Nanteuil's death.

Susan Greenberg. "Reforming 'Paysage Historique': Corot and the Generation of 1830." Art History 27 (June 2004), p. 422, fig. 3.10, comments that although Corot copied this sketch for "Hagar in the Wilderness" (The Met 38.64), "the oak is not idealized or absorbed into the landscape or any organizing system of perspective—it is placed there, and the process ends".

Katherine Rothkopf. Pissarro: Creating the Impressionist Landscape. Exh. cat., Baltimore Museum of Art. London, 2006, pp. 45, 66 n. 6, fig. 1 (color), calls it typical of Corot's oil sketches that might have influenced Pissarro.

Gary Tinterow in The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, pp. 26, 193, no. 7, ill. (color and black and white).

Vincent Pomarède in Corot: Souvenirs et variations. Exh. cat., National Museum of Western Art. Tokyo, 2008, pp. 23, 252, fig. 16.

Dorit Schäfer in Camille Corot: Natur und Traum. Exh. cat., Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe. Heidelberg, 2012, pp. 101–2 n. 15, 464, no. 46, ill. p. 109 (color).

Paul Perrin in Sur la route d'Italie: Peindre la nature d'Hubert Robert à Corot. Ed. Gennaro Toscano. Exh. cat., Musée d'Art, Histoire et Archéologie d'Evreux. Paris, 2014, p. 148, fig. 1 (color), under no. 37.