The Uphill Road (Gouvieux near Chantilly)
oil on panel, 14 5/8" x 18 1/4"
Gift of the Estate of Alice Tweed Tuohy
art provides a bridge between the Neoclassical style, with its
references to historical and mythological events, and early 19th-century
Realism, which tended to take its subjects from contemporary life.
Corot was the oldest of the artists often grouped together as the
Barbizon school, so named for a village thirty miles southeast
of Paris on the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau, where some
of them lived, and all of them painted. Corot began to paint in
the Forest of Fontainebleau as early as 1822, when his father bought
a country house at Ville d’Avray, outside of Paris. Though
he never lived permanently in Barbizon and was a full generation
older than the artists who did, he is often identified with the
Barbizon school because he was one of the first French artists
to paint out of doors, directly from nature. By the late 1840s,
Corot had met most of the Barbizon artists, including Antoine Bayre,
Charles Francois Daubigny, Constant Troyon, Theodore Rousseau,
Jules Dupre, Narcisse Diaz de la Pena and Jean-Francois Millet.
Of these, Daubigny was his closest associate, and after 1852 the
two artists traveled and painted together frequently. Corot’s
mastery of the subtle effects of atmosphere and light, his ability
to simplify the details of landscape by reducing it to a structured
geometric composition, and his characteristic silvery palette (achieved
by the addition of lead white to his colors), made him an artist
who was respected and often imitated by his peers. Daubigny gave
Corot a teasing compliment when he said, “You put nothing
down, but everything is there.” This statement by Corot might
have been a reply: “Reality is part of art; the rest is feeling.” One
of two small paintings by Corot in the Tweed collection, The Uphill
Road pictures the outskirts of Gouvieux, a village in the area
of the Oise River north of Paris, and is thought to have been painted
during a period when the artist traveled extensively around France,
creating sketches of its many small villages. Underlying the subtle
color highlights of the women’s clothing and scattered flecks
of silver-white paint is a strong composition of diagonal lines,
made up of the roads and paths leading away from the foreground.
Characteristically, Corot’s subjects are depicted in a moment
of rest and calm. In this case, the two women are positioned within
the triangular shape of the roadway, a device that unites them
compositionally and conceptually with the landscape.