Saturday, September 07, 2013

Camille Corot and Playing with Colours

On Thursday, we did a traditional Charlotte Mason-style picture talk of "The Colosseum Seen From the Farnese Gardens," by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, painted during his three-year tour of Italy in 1826 (his first break-out period).  I also read some biographical material from Discovering Great Paintings: Corot (published by Fabbri).  After describing the painting verbally, Dollygirl did a quick pencil sketch of the main features.
Friday was our "do art" day, and I had planned something else for the first week of school.  But I was interested in something I had read in our booklet of Corot paintings.  The author says, “The olive trees in the foreground, the crumbling brick and stone of the ruins in the middle and the pale light playing over the distant hills in the background are all quietly but also poetically realistic.  He has created this effect with chalky whites, pale sage greens, grapey purples and tawny browns which produce a remarkable yet restrained colour harmony.  This harmony is so powerful that it could exist almost independently of its supposed subject.”
That gave me an idea for an art activity.  This is what I suggested to Dollygirl:
1.  Have a very close look at the painting.  Can you pick out the four colours described?  Are there any other colours that stand out?  (Dollygirl disagrees that there are purples in the painting; she says they are blue.  I said that might just be our reproduction.)
2.  Look at  the “Basilica of Constantine” and “View of the Mount Pincio and the Church of Trinità dei Monti seen from the garden of the French Academy,” two other paintings done at the same time.  Compare the colours of those paintings with “The Colosseum.”
3.  Using chalk pastels, oil pastels, or pencil crayons (or a combination) in similar shades to the ones described, create one of the following:  a real or imaginary landscape; a sketch of a real object (maybe something outdoors, like a plant or tree); or just an experiment with colours.  Don't use any other colours than those listed.
4.  Do you agree that “chalky whites, pale sage greens, grapey purples, and tawny browns” work so well together that it almost doesn’t matter what subject you choose?  Or is the author exaggerating?   
“As the sage said, if you follow someone, you are always behind him.”  ~~ Camille Corot

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