National Gallery acquires stunning Corot landscape cycle

The Four Times of Day, a cycle of landscapes by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot showing the transition from morning to night, has been bought by the National Gallery with help from an Art Fund grant.

One of the most significant French artists of the 19th century, Corot was a painter of landscapes and portraits who had a tremendous influence on Impressionism. Writing as the leader of the Impressionists in 1897, Claude Monet noted that, 'There is only one master here: Corot. We are nothing compared to him, nothing.'

Corot created the Four Times of Day to decorate the studio owned by his friend, the painter Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, painting the entire series over the space of a week. The gift proved to be a blessing and a curse: Decamps was stunned at the quality of the paintings, but dismayed by the superiority of Corot's works to his own.

The series was bought by Frederic Leighton in 1865, becoming among Corot's earliest works acquired by a British collector. They were displayed prominently in his London home, providing inspiration for his Victorian contemporaries.

Following Leighton's death, the paintings were held in a family collection for more than a century. They have been on loan to the National Gallery since 1997.

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: 'We could not think of a better home for these important works than the National Gallery, where they have resided and delighted for 17 years. We were very pleased to help by offering a substantial grant.'

The Four Times of Day are on display now in Room 41 of the National Gallery in London.

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