Artist. Born in Paris in 1796. His family were bourgeois people, his father was a wigmaker and his mother a milliner and unlike the experience of some of his artistic colleagues, throughout his life he never felt the want of money, as his parents made good investments and ran their businesses well. After his parents married, they bought the millinery shop where she had worked and he gave up his career as a wigmaker to run the business side of the shop. The store was a famous destination for fashionable Parisians and earned the family an excellent income. Jean was the middle of three children born to the family, who lived above their shop during those years. Jean received a scholarship to study at the Lycée Pierre-Corneille in Rouen, but left after having scholastic difficulties and entered a boarding school. He was not a brilliant student, and throughout his entire school career he did not get a single nomination for a prize, not even for the drawing classes. Unlike many masters who demonstrated early talent and inclinations toward art, before 1815 Jean showed no such interest. In 1817, the 21-year-old Jean moved into the dormer windowed room on the third floor, which also became his first studio. With his father's help he apprenticed to a draper, but he hated commercial life and despised what he called business trick, yet he faithfully remained in the trade until he was 26, when his father consented to his adopting the profession of art. When Jean acquired the means to devote himself to art, landscape painting was on the upswing and generally divided into two camps: one historical landscape by Neoclassicists in Southern Europe representing idealized views of real and fancied sites peopled with ancient, mythological, and biblical figures; and two realistic landscape, more common in Northern Europe, which was largely faithful to actual topography, architecture, and flora, and which often showed figures of peasants. In both approaches, landscape artists would typically begin with outdoor sketching and preliminary painting, with finishing work done indoors. Highly influential upon French landscape artists in the early 19th century was the work of Englishmen John Constable and J. M. W. Turner, who reinforced the trend in favor of Realism and away from Neoclassicism. For a short period between 1821 to 1822, Jean studied with Achille Etna Michallon, a landscape painter of Jean's age who was a protégé of the painter David and who was already a well-respected teacher. Michallon had a great influence on Jean's career. With his parents support, Jean followed the well-established pattern of French painters who went to Italy to study the masters of the Italian Renaissance and to draw the crumbling monuments of Roman antiquity. A condition by his parents before leaving was that he paint a self-portrait for them, his first. Jean's stay in Italy from 1825 to 1828 was a highly formative and productive one, during which he completed over 200 drawings and 150 paintings. During his two return trips to Italy, he visited Northern Italy, Venice, and again the Roman countryside. In 1835, Jean created a sensation at the Salon with his biblical painting Agar dans le desert (Hagar in the Wilderness), which depicted Hagar, Sarah's handmaiden, and the child Ishmael, dying of thirst in the desert until saved by an angel. The background was likely derived from an Italian study. This time, Corot's unanticipated bold, fresh statement of the Neoclassical ideal succeeded with the critics by demonstrating "the harmony between the setting and the passion or suffering that the painter chooses to depict in it." He followed that up with other biblical and mythological subjects but those paintings did not succeed as well, as the Salon critics found him wanting in comparisons with Poussin. In 1837, he painted his earliest surviving nude, The Nymph of the Seine. In 1848 he was awarded a second-class medal at the Salon, but he received little state patronage as a result. His only commissioned work was a religious painting for a baptismal chapel painted in 1847, in the manner of the Renaissance masters. In the 1860's, Jean was still mixing peasant figures with mythological ones, mixing Neoclassicism with Realism. Despite great success and appreciation among artists, collectors, and the more generous critics, his many friends considered, nevertheless, that he was officially neglected, and in 1874, a short time before his death, they presented him with a gold medal. He died in Paris.
Bio by: Shock