Corot was one of the most celebrated French landscape painters of the nineteenth century. Although he was trained in the techniques of the Old Masters, his work inspired artists who sought to undermine the classical landscape tradition, above all the Impressionists. Rather than creating idealized views, Corot preferred to work directly from nature. Art critic Gustave Geffroy invited viewers to note the importance of Corot’s technique for future generations of artists. He wrote:
Look closely into these sure harmonies and here and there you will see appear the prescience of a fine and subtle analysis of light. Historically, Corot’s work, which belongs to the painting of the past, heralds, by its nuances and by all the hidden
treasures it suggests, the bold experiments and happy
discoveries of the future.
The Impressionists, just like Geffroy, valued Corot’s ability to capture the effects of observed natural light and atmosphere. This painting exemplifies Corot’s skill at depicting the French countryside, in this case, just outside the Normandy town of Saint-Lô, one of the many sites in France that Corot visited and painted frequently. The artist was familiar with Saint-Lô because it was the birthplace of one of his oldest and closest friends, Abel Osmond, a government official. After the latter’s death in 1840, Corot’s purported amorous relation with Osmond’s aunt supposedly inspired the artist’s repeated visits.