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Prints and Authors in the Time of Manet

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
French, 1796–1875

Horseman in the Woods, Small Plate (Le petit cavalier sous bois)

Glass print (cliché-verre), 1854
Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1985.125

Primarily a poetic landscape painter, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot experimented with prints when he had access to the materials and a printer. In 1853, he was introduced to the cliché-verre medium, a hybrid of printmaking and photography. He subsequently created 66 cliché-verre images. It is probably because of Corot’s efforts in this medium (along with Corot’s fellow Barbizon school artist Charles-François Daubigny’s) that we regard cliché-verre as a viable printmaking/photography medium, rather than as simply an experimental technical curiosity.
In this cliché-verre, Corot drew with an etching needle through a ground (opaque layer) coated onto a glass plate. The atmospheric and foliate effects were created by tapping the ground in a random pattern (tamponnage) with the end of a stiff brush. Once drawn, the plate was used like a photographic negative to transfer the design to light-sensitive paper. Besides its technical importance, this print’s subject of a lone mysterious figure riding in a murky landscape is one of the most intriguing and profound in Corot’s print oeuvre.