In the mid-19th century, Camille Corot’s artistic practice revived landscape painting. Although he was devoted to Italy, where he often stayed, he was equally attached to the French landscapes he depicted throughout his career in the course of his travels. As Corot’s family originated from the Morvan, he visited that region several times in the 1840s and painted some fifteen pictures, including this one, dated summer 1842.
There is nothing picturesque about the scene but it is compelling as a view of the peaceful countryside, enlivened by two farm workers stacking wheat. The artist’s subtle palette explores a range of greens and evokes a gentleness appropriate to its subject. The deep tones, as if framed by grey, foretell the way his work developed in his latter years.
Although not too raw, the hot summer light again evokes the painter’s Italian landscapes, such as the views of Volterra that he painted a little earlier (Paris, Louvre). The free technique demonstrates the growing influence on his art of simple studies of nature, which gradually grew from mere exercises to become true masterpieces that met the expectations of art enthusiasts. In his 1846 Salon exhibition, Baudelaire developed the distinction between a “completed” picture and a “finished” one to justify Corot's new freedom, which was a departure from the classical tradition.