Camille Corot (1796-1875) was probably the painter the most copied during the 19th century not only by imitators but also by talented artists..
It is still possible to rediscover lost works by Corot nowadays but most newly discovered works on the market are fakes. In fact, since the death of Alfred Robaut, an artist who produced the catalogue raisonné of Corot's paintings and drawings there have been some 10,000 recorded fakes in the world.
Corot true signatures
Alfred Robaut tracked down fakes as early as 1875 while Corot, years before his death, executed many paintings
with the help of aides and did not hesitate to add his signature on copies which were submitted to him by many of his admirers. Therefore Corot made apparently no fuss about the many forgeries that were circulating by 1875 perhaps finding amusing to be so much copied.
Alfred Robaut was however utterly horrified and promptly made a list of those forgeries he saw accompanying his descriptions with nasty comments which however disappeared from his catalogue raisonné when it was published by Moreau-Nelaton in 1905.
"Fanchette, femme de chambre de Mme Corot mère",
(1828)... a genuine painting
When Corot died, the demand for his works was quite extraordinary and speculators rushed on the market while fakes came out in numbers to Robaut's despair.
Attending an auction sale on May 20th 1880, Robaut noted that the auctioneer was offering a view of the Pont-Neuf bridge in Paris as a Corot while it was written in pencil on the chassis « by Philippon ». Mr Brame, a well-known expert bought this painting for 5000 francs, a considerable sum at that time, prompting Robaut to say that he was an "ass".
Fakes multiplied because their production was cheap and demand strong. All the more, Corot's works had become incredibly in vogue. There was therefore a big market for unscrupulous dealers who could sold dozens of forgeries to foreign buyers, notably Americans.