Archive for January, 2013

PISSARRO PAINTING AT SOTHEBY’S IS A REAL PRIZE!!

040L13002_6524H_reshot.jpg.thumb.385.385The Seine at Port-Marly,  c. 1872,  PDR 236

If only I were in London this weekend to see this lovely Camille Pissarro painting which will be auctioned at Sotheby’s next week. (PDR 236)  This stunning canvas has been in private hands since it was created in 1872 and has not often been exhibited.  The pre-sale show at Sotheby’s may be the only opportunity for people like me to see it before it goes back into another private collection.

Painted when Pissarro returned to Louveciennes after the Franco-Prussian war, it is very similar to a painting in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. (PDR 229)  That one shows a roofed washhouse built out over the river where women gathered to do the laundry.  In the Sotheby painting, the washhouse does not appear. The view suggests that the artist may have carried his easel onto the floor of the washhouse itself which puts him in the midst of the reflections on the Seine.

The entire right side of the canvas is dominated by a bathing house, where the French working class people would go to enjoy their weekends and holidays. Tucked away in a large bank of trees, it suggests leisure and pleasure. The left side of the painting reveals a strong counterpoint. Under a vast expanse of open sky, factories and barges line the other river bank, reminding us of the industrialization underway. A boat is in the center of the river, and it is impossible to tell whether he is headed back to work or rowing toward a free afternoon. How lucky the person will be who wins this beautiful prize at the Sotheby’s sale next week!

*PDR designates the numbers assigned to these paintings in PISSARRO:CRITICAL CATALOGUE (2005).

More about Pissarro’s time and paintings in Louveciennes in PISSARRO’S PLACES, to be published this April by Art Book Annex.com

PISSARRO EXHIBITION AT LE HAVRE THIS SUMMER

Memphis Le Havre

Entrance to the Harbour at Le Havre With the

West Breakwater, Sunlight, Morning

1903

The Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, TN

PDR 1525

Will this wonderful painting by Pissarro be among those in the new exhibition in Le Havre that opens April 29?  The exhibition, part of the NORMANDY IMPRESSIONIST FESTIVAL, is called Pissarro and the Ports–Rouen, Dieppe, Le Havre and will be at the  Musée d’Art moderne André Malraux – Le Havre from 27 April–29 September 2013. Of course, I will be in Le Havre to see if this intriguing painting will travel from Memphis Tennessee for the exhibition!

At the entrace to Le Havre harbor, the jetty and semaphore, the flag-bedecked structure on the right, are clearly visible. The semaphore was used to transmit messages to ships long before they approached the harbor. The large variety of flags may indicate weather changes or heavy traffic in the harbor.

Two sailboats on the left stay well out of the way as a small steamboat enters the harbor. On the actual canvas, we can see two dark images on the horizon (not easily visible in photographs), possibly other ships waiting their turn to dock. Could Pissarro have been using binoculars to look out to sea? They would have been useful for spotting details from his balcony window.

Pissarro’s strong asymmetrical composition accents the colorful semaphore. He placed it at the point of a sharp angle formed by the dark diagonal of the breakwater and the ocean’s horizon. Like many of the Le Havre series, this painting devotes most of the canvas to the sky. The bright sunlight creates long shadows on the dock and pushes away the thin gauzy clouds. Its reflection has tinted the calm sea a light translucent green, which fades into a thin lilac strip where the ocean meets the sky. Despite the obvious nautical activity on this busy morning, the sense of calmness is heightened by the lightness of the sky and sea.

This historic photo showing the same dock demonstrate’s Pissarro’s genius for making something beautiful out of a scene that could be thought mundane!

dock

PISSARRO’S PLACES, the book, features a whole chapter on Le Havre and includes another painting by Pissarro of the docks, one of the two that Pissarro sold to the Musee Malraux in Le Havre. The book will be published in April. More details to come…..

PISSARRO’S PLACES

promo cover

PISSARRO’S PLACES will be published this April. I am delighted to share this news with you. Many of you know that I have been researching and working on this book for nearly twenty years.

In this book, Pissarro invites you to join him in the places where he painted–the villages, towns, and cities of France. Many are not much different today from when he was there. The “sensations” he felt and captured in his paintings are just as real. This was his genius.

More to come as the book progresses….

Why Did Pissarro Do This?

aa121

The Hills at l’Hermitage, Pointoise, c. 1867, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY

PDR 121

 Always pushing the edge of creativity and inventiveness, Pissarro painted The Hills at L’Hermitage, Pontoise in 1867, seven years before the first Impressionist Exhibition. But it demonstrates all the elements of Impressionism—the light palette, a scene of everyday life, and depiction of the weather.

It is the largest painting ever made by Pissarro. Paul Durand-Ruel, his agent, bought the painting in March 1873 and sold it the same day to Jean-Baptiste Faure, a famous operatic baritone who sang in Paris and London.

The people in Pissarro’s paintings are integral to its composition, but they are not there to tell a story.  In fact, they often raise questions that have no answers. In this painting, a woman and little girl are talking to another woman. Most scholars agree that they are in fact Julie, the painter’s wife, and his daughter Minette. They are talking to a woman whose back is towards us, but we can see from her arms clasped behind her back that she has dark skin. This is especially noticeable because the skin of Julie and Minette are very light, almost pink.

Who is this dark-skinned woman?  Is she an African or a gypsy woman?  What is the conversation between these two women from obviously different backgrounds?  As provocative as this question may be, the women are just two small elements in the painting. The difference in skin-color is so subtle that it goes unnoticed by many viewers. When you remember that everything in a painting is due to the artist’s choice, you wonder why Pissarro raised this unanswerable question.

Pontoise in the Snow as Pissarro Saw It

Rue de Gisors

Rue de Gisors, Effect of Snow, Pontoise, 1873

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA  PDR* 284

The overnight snowfall was still evident as Pissarro set up his easel on the side of the road. Just to the right of the two-wheeled cart, we can easily see the corner of the street where Pissarro lived.

The people of the village are busy with their daily errands as a woman sweeps snow off the sidewalk. Pissarro gives us an accurate sense of the gentle downward slope of the road with the decreasing levels of the rooftops. Even though the dominant colors of the painting are warm pinks and mauves, the cold crispness of the air suggested by the white snow on the roofs is intense.

This scene has hardly changed at all since Pissarro painted it. The pink building now has three stories, but the smaller buildings on that side are still the same and the tall angled roof is still there although it does not seem nearly as high as he portrayed it.

Rue de Gisors today

 This painting is one of 30 featured in the upcoming book,

 PISSARRO’S PLACES.

*PDR refers to the number assigned to this painting in Pissarro:Critical Catalogue by Joachim Pissarro and Claire Durand-Ruel Shollaerts (2005).

 

 

 

 

 

 



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