Posts Tagged 'Montfoucault'

PISSARRO’S POND AT MONTFOUCAULT–YOU CAN VISIT

Cows Watering in the Pond at Montfoucault 1875

Birmingham (UK) Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham  PDR 428

Montfoucault was Pissarro’s refuge, his safe haven.  The large country estate in the Mayenne, home of Pissarro’s artist friend Ludovic Piette, was the place where Pissarro could take his family in times of trouble and need.  He made five visits there painting the secluded countryside in springtime, fall and winter.

This autumn painting features a small herd of cows drinking at the edge of the pond, tended by a peasant woman. The bucolic scene is framed by the large forked tree on the left and another big tree on the right. We can almost feel the warmth of the autumn sun that reflects on the backs of the three red cows. The space is shared by a flock of geese bathing in the pond’s center. This version was painted on site, but it became the model for another larger painting completed later the same year in Pissarro’s studio.

Below is a photograph of Pissarro’s pond taken on a sunny spring day. Beside it is a large plaque, one of twelve erected at Montfoucault by the nearby town of Lassay les Chateaux. You can walk around the estate and see similar plaques showing the sites of paintings by Piette and Pissarro, including Piette’s home and nearby fields and pastures. (The tourist office in Lassay les Chateaux will give you directions to Montfoucault.)

 Pond at Montfoucault [Photo by Paul Climance)

While you are in Lassay les Chateaux, take time to see the largest historic chateau, originally built in the 12th century and rebuilt in the 14th century after destruction during the Hundred Years War. It still has its eight massive towers, ramparts, barbican and a working drawbridge. [http://www.lassay.co.uk/] [http://www.tourisme.fr/office-de-tourisme/lassay-les-chateaux.htm] The photos are by Paul Climance, local historian in Lassay-les-Chateaux.

 Medieval chateau at Lassay-les-Chateaux [Photo by Paul Climance]

AMONG THE SURVIVORS–PISSARRO’S APPLE TREES

   Apple Trees in Bloom

1870, McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton (Ontario), Canada

PDR 176

Camille Pissarro had lived in Louveciennes only a year when he made this lovely painting, Apple Trees in Bloom. He had painted the scenes of his neighborhood and now was exploring the nearby countryside. After painting outside in deep snow that winter, he must have been delighted to see the blossoming apple trees of spring.

This peaceful scene soon became a war zone. By September, the Prussians had defeated Napoleon III at Sedan and their soldiers began to occupy France. Before the troops reached Louveciennes, Pissarro and his companion Julie fled with their two small children to Montfoucault, the home of their dear friend Ludovic Piette in the Mayenne. Later, the young family went to London for the duration of the war.

When the Prussians occupied Louveciennes they commandeered Pissarro’s house, sleeping soldiers upstairs and keeping horses on the ground floor. In the garden, they slaughtered livestock and poultry, using Pissarro’s canvases as aprons and to cover the muddy ground. A great number of Pissarro’s art works were lost or destroyed beyond repair.

The catalogue raisonné (Pissarro:Critical Catalogue, 2005) notes that this painting was bought from the artist by Paul Durand-Ruel on April 30, 1872, almost a year after Pissarro returned from London. There is no information on where this painting and other surviving canvases were during the war.

This landscape is a complex composition of lines and angles. The road is just one of several layers of colors which come to a point and vanish in a distant cluster of houses. Several apple trees march in a straight row diagonally across the lower left, their precise alignment broken by the leaning tree at the front. In the distance lies a village, perhaps Louveciennes. The apple trees serve as a screen, both concealing and revealing the countryside. Pissarro first used this type of composition the previous year, and he continued to develop his use of this device throughout his career.

Apple Trees in Bloom was donated to the McMaster Museum of Art (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) in the mid-1980s by Dr. Herman Herzog Levy.



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