Though Camille Corot resolved at age 30 to dedicate his life to landscapes, he painted figures throughout his career. Figures were necessary to populate his landscapes, but more importantly they presented formal challenges that allowed Corot to find creative solutions to basic artistic problems. “The study of the nude,” he advised his students, “is the best lesson that a landscape painter can have. If someone knows how, without any tricks, to get down a figure, he is able to make a landscape; otherwise he can never do it.”
Late in his career he came to enjoy figure painting as a refreshing break from routine. Treating the landscape as backdrop, he brought his subjects’ spiritual and emotional characters to the fore. These mature works came to be specially prized by collectors, who admired their subtle grace and serenity. Edgar Degas preferred Corot’s figures to his landscapes, and Pablo Picasso would pay them homage through his own works.