The son of a Parisian shopkeeper, the young Corot was hired as a salesman by a cloth merchant, despite his evident gift for drawing. Clearly lacking an aptitude for business, he was already twenty-six when his father gave him an allowance so that he could devote himself entirely to his vocation.
Studying with A. Michallon, with whom he painted his first landscapes in the Forest of Fontainebleau, and then with Victor Bertin, he took his first trip to Italy in 1825. There he enjoyed the friendship of Caruelle d’Aligny and Edouard Bertin, who shared his passion for painting from nature. On his return three years later, he adopted a pattern of work, which he maintained throughout his life, of painting in his Paris studio during the winter and devoting the summer to traveling in France, interrupted by frequent visits to Ville d’Avray, Chailly and Barbizon.
The souvenirs he brought back from his various travels in the French provinces and abroad served as an example for many landscape artists, particularly for his students, Chintreuil, F.L. Francais and Harpignies. An associate of all the Barbizon painters, he became particularly friendly with Daubigny and, from the summer of 1852, they often traveled and worked together.
From spring to autumn, he lived with his parents at Ville d’Avray. He worked in the mornings and evenings, capturing the light and atmosphere of his favorite times of day. He was an extremely kind and generous man much loved by his fellow artists, whom he was always ready to help with money and advice.
Even if Corot cannot truly be regarded as a painter of the Barbizon School, his love for nature, his tireless search to render its slightest nuances, and his taste for working en plein air made him the perfect precursor. Ill with gout from 1866, Corot nevertheless continued traveling and painting. During his long career he became one of the most celebrated artists of his generation and exerted tremendous influence on the painters of the Impressionist movement. He was awarded numerous medals and the coveted Legion of Honor in 1846. Although he was acknowledged as the world’s foremost landscape painter, he did not allow fame to spoil the simplicity of his character. His work can be found in important public collections around the world.