Jean-Baptiste Camille COROT: Jeune mère à l’entrée d’un bois - 1856
[A Young Mother at the Entrance to a Wood]
Cliché-verre made by scratching and rubbing the collodion-coated glass plate, 345 x 265 mm. Robaut 3180, Delteil 59, Melot C. 59.
Very fine impression printed in dark brown on salted wove paper, watermarked DE CANSON F[RERES]. Very tiny scrapes in the upper left corner and a very small loss of paper at the tip of the bottom left corner. In very good condition. Sheet: 360 x 275 mm.
Extremely rare early impression, very likely one of the first edition printed by Adalbert Cuvelier.
The plates for the clichés-verre sketched by Corot in 1855 and 1856 were printed for the first time by Adalbert Cuvelier (1812-1871). His son Eugène kept fifteen plates, among which Jeune mère à l’entrée d’un bois, which were then sold in 1911 to the Paris collector Albert Bouasse-Lebel, for whom Paul Desavary printed Corot's clichés-verre between 1911 and 1913 (ten to fifteen impressions for each plate, on vintage paper specially made by Lumière in Lyon (Melot, 1978, p. 23). Maurice Le Garrec bought Bouasse-Lebel's clichés-verre collection in 1919 and in 1921 published a portfolio of reprints of the plates with the title Quarante clichés-glace de Corot, Daubigny, Delacroix, Millet, Th. Rousseau, tirés sur les plaques de la collection Cuvelier. These impressions were printed “in black, on Neos (?) from the Maison Lumière” (Le cliché-verre. Corot et la gravure diaphane, p. 108, our translation).
Our impression is printed on a sheet of wove paper with the watermark DE CANSON F[RERES]. That paper was frequently used by artists in the 1850s. Adalbert Cuvelier used it in particular for photographic prints, as he explains in a note from 1854, in which he details the processes he invented for preparing the paper: “For lack of better paper, I prefer the one made by Canson frères, because it is not any worse than the others and it withstands the baths better.” (M. Cuvelier à M. Charles Chevalier. Arras, le 12 février 1854, in Guide du photographe, second part « Nouveaux mémoires et renseignements sur les moyens d’obtenir de belles épreuves sur papier […] par messieurs G. Roman, Cuvelier, Dufaur, Laborde, […] », p. 46, our translation).
The Bibliothèque nationale de France keeps a contre-type that was made after our impression (mounted in volume 2 of Corot's œuvre, kept in the general collection of the Département des Estampes et de la Photographie, classification number DC-282(A)-FOL). Contre-types are copies made from the original plate or from an impression of that plate. On the impression kept in the Bibliothèque nationale can be noticed the same small defects as on our print (small scratches in the top left corner, small part missing from the bottom left corner): they were “photographed” with the rest of the impression. The contre-type in the Bibliothèque nationale de France comes from an important bequest from the collection of the lawyer Paul Cosson in June 1926; it might have been made by Charles Desavary (1837-1885), who printed some of Corot's cliché-verre plates, and who also made numerous contre-types from them.
Impressions from early editions are extremely rare. P.-J. Angoulvent, who established a catalogue for Corot's engraved œuvre in 1926, mentions “6 or 7 impressions” for each cliché-verre (in Le cliché-verre. Corot et la gravure diaphane, p. 108, our translation). Loys Delteil in his catalogue published in 1910 mentions 5 impressions of Jeune mère à l’entrée d’un bois. Our impression is very likely the one in the Félix Bracquemond collection, mentioned by Delteil.
In 1853, in Arras, Corot learns the then newly introduced technique of cliché-verre from artists and photographers Léandre Grandguillaume and Adalbert Cuvelier. The technique consists in sketching in drypoint, or with other instruments like brushes, on a glass plate covered in collodion. The image is then printed in the same way as images made from photo negatives, in daylight, on salted or albumen paper. Corot took a liking to this technique and he produced sixty-six clichés-verre.
“The figure of the mother standing with her child in her arms is a frequent motif with Corot. The sketch of the peasant woman with two children, dated around 1855-1860 (A. Robaut, I, p. 189, repr.), can be considered as the prototype for several variants. The same touching group can be seen almost stroke for stroke in two lithographs, La Rencontre au bosquet [Meeting in the Woods] and Une famille à Terracine [Family at Terracina]. Everywhere in this cliché-verre the drypoint work remains very light, and the rubbing very subtle. This delicate work expresses an authentic feeling of being out in the open air; the whole scene is bathed in a soft and diffuse light, worthy of the most beautiful atmospheric effects achieved by the Impressionists.” (Corot, le génie du trait, p. 69, our translation).
References: Alfred Robaut, L'œuvre de Corot, catalogue raisonné précédé de l'histoire de Corot et de ses œuvres par E. Moreau-Nelaton, Paris, 1905; Loys Delteil, Le Peintre-graveur illustré, volume V, Corot, 1910; Michel Melot, L’œuvre gravé de Boudin, Corot, Daubigny, Dupré, Jongkind, Millet, Théodore Rousseau, Paris, 1978; Le cliché-verre. Corot et la gravure diaphane, 1982; Alain Paviot, Le Cliché-verre. Corot, Delacroix, Millet, Rousseau, Daubigny, Paris 1995; Corot, le génie du trait. Estampes et dessins, Paris, 1996; Gravure ou photographie ? Une curiosité artistique : le cliché-verre, Arras, 2007.