Hanging Out With Chris Rupp
Corot first exhibited work in the United States in 1860, when one of his paintings appeared in the Goupil Gallery in New York. Not long afterwards he became a favorite in the U.S. “Since the end of the nineteenth century,” writes Museum Director Judy Larson in the introduction to the exhibit catalog, “Corot’s art has been enormously popular in America. Lord Paul and Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree’s collecting interest in Camile Corot follows a well-established fascination with this Barbizon artist who linked the Neoclassical landscape traditions to a fresh and innovative way of painting nature. Corot took his paintbrush and paper outdoors, sketching and carefully observing every nuance and detail of his subjects.”
According to Chris, the current exhibit is rather unique in that it is not simply a show of paintings, prints or drawings, but brings all of them together, which rarely occurs. The distinctive blend of works is evident in the “title wall” that was built just for this occasion. The front side of this custom-built wall features the Corot paintings from Lady Ridley-Tree’s collection, including some of those that will be given to Westmont. On the backside are the paper works that require extremely low lighting. As Chris points out, the blending of the different kinds of work “really gives a strong glimpse into his whole life as an artist rather than just a painter or draftsman.”
The unusual variety of the show was noted by the scholars who spoke at the recent symposium on Corot, organized by Judy Larson and the Museum team. Nearly 100 people gathered in Porter Theatre for presentations on "Corot and Connoisseurship."
The set of lithographs in the exhibit, Chris notes, are “extremely rare and were all printed during Corot's lifetime as a set of prints that collectors could purchase. These twelve lithographs in most cases were split up, collectors kept some for themselves and sold the rest, gave them away, etc. Therefore there are only 2-3 known full and complete sets still in existence.
For Chris, spacing the paintings on the wall had its unique challenges because so much of Corot’s work is “horizontal.” “We like to have a mix of works of varying size, as well as a mix of horizontal and vertical pictures,” he notes, for “it just makes it more interesting to the eye and less expected.” The largest of the horizontal paintings dominates the southern wall. A loan from Michael Armand Hammer and the Armand Hammer Foundation, “Les Plaisirs du soir” (“Pleasures of the Evening”) is one of Corot’s last works, finished within a year of his death. It was painted for the French Salons that generally drew the attention of critics and the larger public.
To find the interesting contrasts in form, content and style, Chris and his team needed to see the paintings set against the walls, and they tried several arrangements before settling on the right blend. “We did have some ideas in mind ahead of time,” he claims, “but we also had some restrictions that we don't normally face, such as light conditions. These restrictions required us to hang some works in specific places to reduce the amount of light they are exposed to through the course of the exhibition (with ‘foot candles’ checked by a light meter).”
“A lot of people don’t realize the work that goes into a show,” Chris observed when asked about the difficulty of preparing for this exhibit. “Our goal was to make all the work in the gallery feel cohesive in some way, to make all the pieces complement each other in ways that make them better as a whole.”