Corot’s Immortal Women

The 20th century German theologian Karl Barth once said that woman “is in her whole existence an appeal to the kindness of man.” Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875) saw in women something more—a side of them undefined by the male gaze—and captured this in his portraits of women that can be seen in the National Gallery’s exhibit “Corot: Women,” open until Dec. 31. Perhaps this is because his stalwart mother provided the primary source of income for his family with a substantial dowry and her successful milliner shops in Paris. From his early years, he recognized that some women could seize a sense of independence that many were denied. His portraits of women convey dignity and strength, not a Barthian fantasy of seduction or feudal delicacy.

The Limits of Highmindedness

The political reporter Steve Kornacki wants to rise above the fray. You can see it in the first few pages of The Red and the Blue, his new book on the 1990s birth of tribalism in American politics. You can see it in the occasional sententious asides. You can see it in the hortatory conclusion. All of it is goo, of course—a little pomposity, a little pleonasm, an attempt or two at highmindedness, and there we are: the fray, successfully risen above.