From the late eighteenth century and throughout the nineteenth, the dramatic, jagged profile of the Swiss Alps drew painters from around the world. Corot was somewhat removed from the fashion for sublime landscapes: travelling to Italy, he was not inspired by the dramatic peaks of the Valais nor the imposing Simplon pass. He rather found himself drawn by the softer, more intimate slopes of the Jura, the calm of Geneva harbour, and the tranquility of the Vaud lakes, where he spent the summer of 1842, visiting Ouchy, Vevey and Montreux. The subjects he captured in paint were less spectacular, but sometimes more unexpected.
For Ouchy, près de Lausanne, Corot set up his easel in the countryside, choosing a spot overlooked by François Bocion, who focused on the lake shores, and Ferdinand Hodler, who sought out high viewpoints offering sweeping bird’s eye vistas of mountains and lakes. Here, the lake is a mere strip of blue. This tucked-away view of what was then still a tiny fishing hamlet is firmly earthbound. In the foreground are cattle and peasant women, in the middle ground the village and the old castle keep, and in the background, a careful depiction of the Alpine foothills from the Grammont to the Dent d’Oche.
The realism and ordinary nature of the scene, treated in a wholly unsentimental manner, give it exceptional charm. The approach is generous and confident. The afternoon light is clear and direct, dazzling when it strikes the tower and house gable. The colours are not burdened with atmospheric subtleties. As often in Corot’s landscapes, the middle ground and background are sharper and lighter in treatment than the foreground.
Paul Lang (ed.), Corot en Suisse, exh. cat. Geneva, Musée Rath, Geneva, Musées d’art et d’histoire, Paris, Somogy, 2010: n. 10.
Rodolphe Walter, in collaboration with Elisabeth Foucart-Walter, Corot à Mantes, Paris, Les Éditions de l’Amateur, 1997: 185-186, n. XIX.
Michael Pantazzi, Vincent Pomarède et alii, Corot 1796 | 1875, exh. cat. Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Ottawa, Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Paris, RMN – Grand Palais, 1996.