This remarkable painting attests to the friendship of two artist companions. Fellow combatants in the battle against the Beaux-Arts academic system and administration, these two landscape painters were precursors of Impressionism: Daubigny and, as he called his friend, “Le Père Corot.” At Corot’s suggestion, Daubigny moved to Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris, not far from Daumier’s studio. They undertook to decorate the new lodgings: L’île heureuse is the finest of the five panels Corot executed for his vestibule.
If Daubigny veered from Realism to colourful Impressionism in his landscape-portraits, Corot proceeded more from the classical spirit of seventeenth-century French landscape masters Claude and Poussin in the landscapes of his maturity, which he called his paysages-souvenirs. This is one of the painter’s infinite variations on the theme of a placid lake in dawn mist under a flurry of foliage, the scene disturbed only by sketchily rendered peasant figures. Is this the Italy of Lake Albano? Or the French countryside around Ville-d’Avray? Regardless, the atmosphere is as always that of a reconstituted dream, in which the painter-poet favours sensation over description, tone over colour.