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The Cicada, 1865-1875

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot

French, 1796-1875
Oil on panel
18-1/4 x 14-5/8 in. (46.4 x 37.2 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
M.1975.13.1.P
© 2012 Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

Although Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot was one of the most influential landscape painters of the nineteenth century, the artist also completed over one hundred figure studies in the last two decades of his life. Rarely sent to the annual Salon and thus unseen by the general public, these pictures were nevertheless so impressive that both Edgar Degas and Vincent van Gogh remarked on their success. The Cicada is an excellent example of these works, as Corot’s figure paintings tended to feature female models in contemplative, quiet poses, with downcast eyes averting the gaze of their viewers. The sitter’s stillness reflects a poetic gracefulness that recalls the serene mood of Corot’s landscapes, a mood that is reinforced in The Cicada by the silvery and atmospheric imaginary forest that rises behind the figure. The meaning of the title—one of the earliest to be attached to the painting—may refer to the thinly painted element sitting atop the figure’s left shoulder.

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