National Gallery acquires Corots

December 16 2014

Image of National Gallery acquires Corots

Picture: NG

The National Gallery has acquired Corot's The Four Times of Day, with help from the Art Fund. The pictures have been on loan to the NG for many years. Says the NG's press release:

The only decorative cycle on public display in the UK by one of the most influential artists in the development of landscape painting and a key inspiration to the Impressionists, will remain on view for future generations to enjoy after being purchased by the National Gallery with the support of the Art Fund.

The Four Times of Day (about 1858), by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, has a long association with the UK. The four paintings, representing Morning (pictured left), Noon, Evening and Night, were acquired by artist Frederic, Lord Leighton in 1865 and were among the earliest Corot works to be acquired by a British collector. Lord Leighton displayed them as the focal point of his London home, where they provided inspiration for his fellow Victorian artists. After his death, the paintings spent more than a century in the same family collection and have been on loan to the National Gallery since 1997. The pictures were acquired for Lord Wantage at Christie’s in 1896 and their sale to the nation was negotiated by Christie’s.

Corot painted the four large panels, which trace the deepening light of the sky from sunrise to star-studded night, to decorate the Fontainebleau studio of his friend and fellow painter Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps. He completed the cycle in a single week prompting Decamps to exclaim, 'Not so fast, don’t hurry so; there is still enough soup for a few days more.' Decamps apparently spent hours in contemplation of the panels, filled with dismay at their quality, technique and effect compared to his own work.

A long time ago, I went round the National Gallery late at night with a trustee (trustees get the 'Freedom of the Gallery', which means they can go when they like) and also the then owner of The Four Times of Day, the late 'Larch' Lloyd. As we stood in front of them I thought what a great ambition it would be to own a work of art good enough to lend to the National Gallery. I'm still working on that...

I wrote about the late night trip here before

Update - a reader writes:

Another unnecessary acquisition.  They already have 21 Corots so why not have helped Leighton House get them back – the latter’s been buying back works from the Lord’s collection over the years.

Update II - another reader writes:

I’ve found the lack of comment on the National Gallery’s Corot acquisition interesting. Does this mean that the vast majority of people deem it to be a good acquisition, I wonder? As compared to the Wilke, this (surely more significant) acquisition seems to have raised hardly a peep.

I’ve always liked the Four Times of Day, and am glad to see them in the permanent collection – they’re striking when viewed together, and they’re also varied, compared to a lot of other Corot landscapes with milky-white skies. I suppose there’s a debate to be had about whether the money would have been better spent on expanding the collection’s range (given they already have more than 20 Corots).

Personally, I've always liked the pictures, and am glad they've been acquired.

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