Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot
Lausanne et le lac Léman (Lausanne and Lake Geneva),
While Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot’s three visits to Italy are the best-known of his travels outside France, he actually visited Switzerland more often. His mother was from Freiburg and he was a frequent visitor there, becoming friends with many local artists. One such was Barthélemy Menn, who showed his paintings in exhibitions in Geneva. Corot and Menn together visited the château in Gruyères, which belonged to the Bovy family, and Corot helped decorate the salon with four landscapes in roundels (1853–7).
Corot stopped in Lausanne on his way to Rome in October 1825, painting his first view of the city from a spot overlooking Lake Geneva in the Flon valley, not far from the Hermitage property (now in a private collection). This had become a popular spot for travelling artists to stop and paint in the late eighteenth century. Corot returned to the same spot for two new paintings in the 1840s, including this view of Lausanne and Lake Geneva.
His viewpoint in this painting is noticeably more distant than in the 1825 version, with a broader framing of the scene to include more of the natural setting. An abundance of foliage fills the lower third of the canvas to frame the town, whose rooftops stand out against the calm waters of the lake. In the distance, the Alpine peaks merge into the clouds. The profile of the cathedral has changed slightly, since the lantern-tower was struck by lightning and rebuilt in 1827. The foreground foliage is sketched in with swift, overlapping dabs of the paintbrush in a rich palette of greens. The lake, mountains, and sky in the background all come together in one hazy blend of silvery greens and blue-greys, with lengthy brushstrokes that underline the horizontal composition. The red roofs provide a splash of brighter colour in the centre of the painting.
Paul Lang (ed.), Corot en Suisse, exh. cat. Geneva, Musée Rath, Geneva, Musées d’art et d’histoire, Paris, Somogy, 2010: n. 9.
William Hauptman, La Suisse Sublime vue par les peintres voyageurs (1770-1914), exh. cat. Lugano, Villa Favorita, Fondazione Thyssen-Bornemisza, Geneva, Musée d’art et d’histoire, Milan, Electa, 1991: n. 57.
Erika Billeter (ed.), Chefs-d’œuvre du Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne: regard sur 150 tableaux, Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, 1989: 66.