Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796 - Paris - 1875)
Sainte-Adresse, Normandy, c.1830
Oil on paper, 15 x 22.8 cm
Estate stamp lower right VENTE / COROT
Vente Corot wax seal on the stretcher
Estate sale Vente Corot, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 26 May 1875, lot 335, bought for 100 francs by Détrimont Alexis-Eugène Détrimont, Paris
Private collection, France
Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, New York 2002
Private collection, Canada
Alfred Robaut, L'oeuvre de Corot: catalogue raisonné et illustré, Paris 1905, vol. 2, p. 82, no. 235, fig. p. 83; vol. 4, p. 232, lot 335 in the estate sale
Jean Selz, La Vie et l'oeuvre de Camille Corot, Courbevoie 1988, p. 74
A number of prominent painters of the nineteenth and early twentieth century came to northern France to stay in Sainte-Adresse, a small town west of Le Havre on the English Channel. Tired of the restlessness of the big city, they sought the peace and quiet of Normandy. It was here that such artists as Gustave Courbet, Alfred Stevens, Albert Marquet, Claude Monet and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot found new motifs and inspiration.
Our oil study of the dunes in Sainte-Adresse originated after Corot’s first Italian sojourn, from which he returned in 1828. The experience gained in Rome, particularly the perfection of plein-air painting, are impressively documented in this work. In these years Corot attempted to give the chance framing of a plein-air view a solid composition. Peter Galassi writes: Through artistic distance and reflection, Corot fused the empirical precision of open-air painting with the painterly strictness of the classical tradition.
The beach of Sainte-Adresse and the promontory of Hève behind it, pointing away from the setting sun, are already shrouded in cool shadows. The warm glow of the twilight sky is visible in the distance. Corot was so attracted to the place that he visited it in 1829 and 1830 – and again in 1840. The pin-holes in the corners, which were made when the paper was fastened to the drawing board, show that The Dunes of Sainte-Adresse originated on the spot. Corot concentrated on the effect of light and color. He paid particular attention to the dunes, which are almost abstract – owing to the flatly applied shades of gray, brown and green – and contrast with the warm hues of the sky and clouds.
Corot was one of the most important landscape painters of the nineteenth century. He was taught the rudiments of classical landscape painting by the painters Achille-Etna Michallon and Jean-Victor Bertin. From the very beginning they encouraged him to concentrate on nature studies, just as they had been urged to do by their teacher, Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes. Corot was a regular exhibitor at the Paris Salon, where he mostly displayed landscapes based directly on his plein-air studies. These spontaneous sheets are now among his most sought-after works. The artist frequently stayed near Fontainebleau, where he sought out the company of painters of the School of Barbizon, such as Daubigny and Diaz. After his arrival in Rome in 1826, Corot was strongly influenced by the oil sketches of Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes, who had gone to Rome as early as 1777.
 Alexis-Eugène Détrimont (born 1825) was a picture dealer who also dealt in canvases. He started a small framing business in the rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs in Paris before setting up in the rue Lafitte. Cf. Roquebert, ‘Quelques observations sur la technique de Corot’, in Corot, un artiste et son temps. Proceedings of the colloquium organized at the Musée du Louvre by the Service Culturel on 1 and 2 March 1996 in Paris and by the Académie de France in Rome, Villa Medici, 9 March 1996 in Rome, Paris and Rome 1998, pp. 73-97 and p. 95, note 14.
 Peter Galassi, Corot in Italien. Freilichtmalerei und klassische Landschaftstradition, Munich 1991, p. 143: Durch künstlerische Distanz und Überlegung hat Corot die empirische Genauigkeit der Freilichtmalerei mit der malerischen Strenge der klassischen Tradition verschmolzen.
 Cf. Bruno Delarue, Les peintres au Havre et Sainte-Adresse 1516-1940, Yport 2008, pp. 321-322.
 In 1799 De Valenciennes published one of the most important treatises on painting theory of his time, which was of great importance to the next generation: Éléments de perspective pratique à l'usage des artistes, suivis de réflexions et conseils à un élève sur la peinture et particulièrement sur le genre du paysage.