Posts Tagged 'Pontoise'

WHERE’S THE FOCAL POINT?

La Côte des Jalais, Pontoise 1867    PDR 116 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

La Côte des Jalais, Pontoise
1867 PDR 116
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

At first glance, this painting looks very much like any other Impressionist landscape in museums. But what if I were to tell you this is an extremely radical painting? One critic who wrote in 1868 about this painting said, “It is painted with great simplicity; the details, executed in groups, give one the impression they were studied singly. There is a great pictorial talent here, to be sure; unfortunately, it lacks a subject.” (Emphasis is mine.)

Today, we look at abstract art and are totally unconcerned that it rarely has a subject. We don’t even expect it. But historically, paintings were “pictures of something,” a church, a river, a person, or a group of people. In fact, the most favored paintings at the Salon were expected to show famous historical or mythological scenes. Landscapes were much less important to them, and it had to have a focal point—one thing that is the center of attention. The focal point was prominently positioned, a brighter color, or larger than other elements. In other words, it was obvious what the artist wanted you to look at.

This large painting (34.2” x 45.2”) by Pissarro was exhibited in the Salon of 1868, where reportedly it was hung too high to be seen properly. But the critic could see it well enough to determine that it has no focal point. In the lower foreground, two women dressed in fashionable dresses are seen on the path. In a painting by Monet or Renoir, they would probably be the focal point, but Pissarro makes them so small, we cannot even see their faces or distinguish any details of their dresses. Additionally, they are dwarfed by the tall trees directly behind them.

Just left of the women is a group of houses, but they do not provide a focal point. They derive their importance only by their proximity to each other. They are fashioned with few brush strokes, and get their only sense of depth from the roof lines. The right side is dominated by a large dark wedge; it is impossible to distinguish bushes or trees in the tangle of dark green brushstrokes.

The curved lines of the fields are the only clues that there is a deep valley between distant horizon line and the women. The fields are painted in broad swaths of color that flatten the background and make them look closer than they would in reality. Pissarro, who had already proven himself to be proficient in painting accurate perspective, has chosen to flatten out this landscape. He never intended to make a perfect photographic replica, as the Realistic painters did. He was painting a composition of different colors and shapes set side-by-side.  He simply used the real motif as a spark for his own personal sensation.

No one would call this an abstract painting—too much is recognizable, but the flatness of the painting and the broad swathes of color are abstract elements. But radical for its time—yes, indeed.  And this was seven years before the first Impressionist Exhibition. Pissarro was using artistic techniques that were different from all other artists before that time and those who were his friends.

Much of the information in this article is from Pissarro:Critical Catalogue, Joachim Pissarro and Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts (2005).

RADICAL PAINTING CLOTHED IN SIMPLICITY

The Village Screened by Trees c. 1869   PDR 134 Private collection

The Village Screened by Trees
             c. 1869 PDR 134
             Private collection

This stunning painting, The Village Screened by Trees, (1869) seems so simple, yet it is an enigma. There is a village bathed in the crisp clear sunlight of autumn. We long to hurry through the trees to see it more clearly. But Pissarro holds us back and forces us to take a more complicated view. A thick stand of tall trees creates a screen that blocks our sight line and demands our attention. This is the first of Pissarro’s paintings to use this unique device in composition.

Some of Pissarro’s earlier paintings were similar to those of Corot in that they used rows or groups of trees to frame the view. This painting, however, does the opposite—the trees obstruct the view, forcing our eyes to wander in an out of the spindly tree trunks to piece together our view of the village. Years later, Pissarro took this device to the extreme in his painting La Côte des Bœufs, Pontoise (1877) with a screen of trees that covers the entire canvas.

We could ask why Pissarro did this, but there is no answer. What we do know is that most Impressionist paintings have a clear focal point, and the picture’s elements are arranged so that the motif is easily understood. This composition of this picture does the opposite. In 1869, five years before the First Impressionist Exhibition, Pissarro’s concept of forcing the viewer to look through a screen was totally radical.

This painting presents other puzzles as well. Most landscapes are horizontal in shape, but this one is vertical, which easily accommodates the tall trees. While the actual date of the painting is unknown, it has been placed at 1869, the year Pissarro moved to Louveciennes. Scholars say that the actual village is unknown since its particular topography does not appear to match Pissarro’s other views of either Louveciennes or Pontoise.

However, Pissarro points the way through the screen. Directly in front of us is a walkway leading to the village and a smaller path branching off to the right. Together, they form a strong V that anchors the composition. Just to be sure we don’t miss it, Pissarro places a small figure of a woman in the angle. He repeats this angle in the limbs of the tree just above her head and again in the background with the two sections of wall leading into the picture from each side.

While some might think this painting somewhat bland compared with other works of its time, it is, in fact, highly sophisticated and experimental. Perhaps if so many of Pissarro’s paintings of this period had not been lost in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-18871), he would be correctly recognized as the artist who was far ahead of his time. 

PISSARRO’S FANS — A RARE LOOK AT TWO

ÉVENTAIL: FOIRE DE LA SAINT-MARTIN, PONTOISE Gouache on silk

ÉVENTAIL: FOIRE DE LA SAINT-MARTIN, PONTOISE
Gouache on silk

 

LES VENDANGES Gouache on vellum

LES VENDANGES
Gouache on vellum

 

Paintings are most often rectangular or square, or even round. But how unusual is it to see a painting in the shape of a fan? These two, both in the Impressionist Auction at Sotheby’s in May, are superb examples of Pissarro’s fans.

Before the time of air conditioning, a folding fan was an important accessory for a lady. She could use it to generate a pleasant breeze or to flirt with a stranger. In the 17th and 18th century, fans were decorated with ornate patterns and designs, becoming works of art in their own right.  Instead of cutting and folding them to fit the frame of the fan, they were sometimes left flat and framed like paintings.  

Among the Impressionists, both Pissarro and Degas made paintings in the shape of fans. Unlike earlier fancy designs, their fans were complete paintings made to fit in the unusual circular shape missing a center. It is interesting to see how Pissarro placed each of the elements to fit within this odd shape. In the fourth Impressionist exhibition, Pissarro exhibited twelve fans, and he continued making fans throughout the 1880s.

The first fan shows a busy market scene, very typical of Pissarro’s work, except it fits perfectly into the odd shape. He uses the lamp-post on the left and the flag pole on the right to divide the space into thirds.  On the left, we see the vendors up close, going back and forth to the stalls.  In the center, a view of the village in the background and on the right, a woman beside a table filled with china or glass objects for sale. The composition is so perfect that the “hole in the center” is not even noticed.

The second fan, showing women in a field picking peas or beans, is a very special one indeed.  This one belonged to Mary Cassatt, who obtained it directly from Pissarro. He uses a different device in this fan, creating a very strong horizon line which causes us to assume that there is a line across the bottom too.  Again, the figures on each side are shown close up and those in the center are farther away.  He balances the distant village in the right background with the tall trees on the left.  

Since fans were most often painted on paper or silk, they are more sensitive to light and are not often put on view in museums.  Occasionally, fans will be shown in special exhibitions. So it was a rare opportunity to see these two, both of them superb examples of Pissarro’s artistry.

PISSARRO’S PLACES

was among the books exhibited at

Book Expo America in New York last week.

This photo shows it on the top shelf in the center.

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Visit the website at www.pissarrosplaces.com

The special discount on purchase of the book is still available to those who visit the website.

DO-IT-YOURSELF — PISSARRO EXHIBITION — THIS WEEKEND IN NEW YORK!!

Banks of the Loing at Moret, 1901, PDR 1369 Sothebys, Lot 39

Banks of the Loing at Moret, 1901, PDR 1369
Sothebys, Lot 39

When Christies, Sothebys and Bonhams have their semi-annual sales of Impressionist paintings, you never know what you’ll see!  This is your chance to see the paintings up for sale. Most of them are from private collections and may not have been seen in public for a long time.  Likewise, when the hammer falls on the auction block next week, most of these paintings will go back into private collections. We can only hope that the new owners will graciously share them for future exhibitions.

SEE THEM FOR YOURSELF!

Organize your own exhibition around the seven Pissarro oil paintings on view this weekend — all of them outstanding.  Save the most time for Sotheby’s—they have five paintings on view:  Lots 35, 39, 42, 44 and 58;  Christies is offering one painting, Lot 44, and Bonhams has one spectacular painting Lot 23.  All seven are shown in this blog.

AND THERE’S A SPECIAL BONUS ON SUNDAY AT BONHAMS!

Pissarro, An Artist for the 21st Century, A lecture by Patricia Mainardi, PhD

2:00 pm on Sunday, 3 Nov 2013 at Bonhams, 580 Madison Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets

They request an RSVP by Nov. 1 events.us@bonhams.com  +1 212 644 9143

Here are the other paintings. They may look nice on the screen, but nothing compares with seeing them in person!!

The “Englishman’s House,” Eragny, c. 1902, PDR 1465 Sothebys, Lot 44

The “Englishman’s House,” Eragny, c. 1902, PDR 1465
Sothebys, Lot 44

The Hills at Thierceville, Haystacks, 1897, PDR 1189 Sothebys, Lot 42

The Hills at Thierceville, Haystacks, 1897, PDR 1189
Sothebys, Lot 42

 

A Meadow at Eragny, 1886, PDR 829 Sothebys, Lot 35

A Meadow at Eragny, 1886, PDR 829
Sothebys, Lot 35

 

The Seine in Flood, Pont Boieldieu, Rouen, 1896, PDR 1120 Sothebys, Lot 58

The Seine in Flood, Pont Boieldieu, Rouen, 1896, PDR 1120
Sothebys, Lot 58

 

Landscape with Houses and Wall, Eragny, 1892, PDR 968 Christies, Lot 44

Landscape with Houses and Wall, Eragny, 1892, PDR 968
Christies, Lot 44

 

The Garden at Maubuisson, Pontoise, 1882, PDR 696 Bonhams, Lot 23

The Garden at Maubuisson, Pontoise, 1882, PDR 696
Bonhams, Lot 23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PISSARRO Exhibition Moves to Barcelona October 15!

The Hermitage Road at Pontoise, 1874 Musée d’Orsay, Paris   PDR349

The Hermitage Road at Pontoise, 1874
Musée d’Orsay, Paris PDR349

This charming landscape by Camille Pissarro was featured in the PISSARRO exhibition in Madrid.  Perhaps it will also be included at the CaixaForum in Barcelona when the PISSARRO exhibition opens there on October 15.

Some of Pissarro’s paintings look deceptively simple—and this is a perfect example! The top third of the canvas is filled with grayish clouds and the lower two-thirds are green fields. A horse and buggy provide a pleasant focal point just off center.

So how do you explain the intrinsic sense of movement, steady as a pulse, that drives the action in the painting. It is only paint on canvas, but you really believe that the buggy is moving forward at a brisk clip. You know that the man on the left will meet the two women walking towards him, and that the tiny buggy on the hillside road will soon disappear from sight.

Underlying these believable elements is a dramatic geometric form—a large lazy Z figure that appears on the horizon just left of center (look for the tiny buggy), makes a sharp angle around the three tall poplar trees, and almost disappears at the left foreground before it forms the bottom of the letter leading to the two women.  In a landscape that appears soft and curvy, this large Z is decidedly sharp and angular, dividing the fields into separate sections.

As if to heighten the excitement, Pissarro works each section in a different manner. Look closely at the space beneath the main road in the foreground. It is divided into four sections of grass, each of them different shades of green, and a small yellowish bridge.  The section between the bottom of the Z and the strong diagonal from left to right  includes six or seven different sections with small dark green trees at the top right edge of the canvas.  The section between the top of the Z and the diagonal is mostly a rosy beige with patches of green but is bordered on the left by darker green. A mysterious pale green band leads our eyes to the three tall poplars at the angle. The distant space above the second road going up the hill appears to be rocky fields defined by a narrow line of tiny green trees on the horizon. Even the sky seems to be doing its part, with the dark clouds scudding away quickly leaving lighter, brighter skies near the horizon.

All the movement is grounded by the prominent arch of the small bridge in the right lower corner of the canvas. It is reflected in the rocks just to the left highlighted by the small white arrow formed by the road’s surface. The stability of the view is also anchored by the presence of a herd of sheep with their shepherd far in the distance just above the woman’s white cap.

Pissarro’s paintings are often subtle. They don’t scream at you with clashing colors and jagged edges, but a careful look reveals many intricate features and very often surprises.

*   *   *   *   *

PISSARRO’S PLACES,

the book about all the locations Pissarro painted,

 will be available in Barcelona at the CaixaForum bookstore.

www.pissarrosplaces.com

Sense the Quiet Pulse of the Earth

The Old Road to Ennery at Pontoise, 1877 National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

The Old Road to Ennery at Pontoise, 1877
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

This painting is one of those in the PISSARRO exhibition in Madrid (previous post)—a serene landscape painted near Pontoise. Just right of center, a woman rides sidesaddle on a horse, leading us into the picture. The road, just a dirt lane through the fields,  intersects with a large road bordered by trees. Between the smaller trees, other haystacks are visible in the distance. On the large road at the left, another woman walks out of the painting.

This simple landscape, divided almost equally between land and sky, is actually quite complicated. The horizon line is slightly curved like the edge of the earth. With nothing to stop our gaze, it stretches on both sides into infinity. The small curved lane where the woman is riding is roughly perpendicular to the large road. To the left of the horse is a small green triangle that makes a line with a row of green cabbages on the other side, creating a curvy X. Not to be outdone, the sky is filled with “buttermilk” clouds interspersed with big puffs that hurry from left to right.

At first glance, the colors seem simple too—red, yellow, green, blue and white. But the fields on the right reveal a myriad of greens—some more yellow, others more blue—side by side. The fields on the left are plain except for dashes of red—perhaps a newly plowed field.

Filled with movement and life, this painting requires a very large canvas. It is, in fact, approximately 59 inches wide and 36 inches high. Though the scene is placid, we sense the quiet pulse of the earth.

You can see it in Madrid at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemiszo for a few more weeks. In October, the PISSARRO exhibition will move to CaixaForum in Barcelona.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 PISSARRO’S PLACES, the book that explores all the sites painted by Pissarro, is now on sale at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemiszo. It will also be on sale in Barcelona at the CaixaForum in October.

See PISSARRO’S PLACES, the presentation

Philadelphia – Osher Lifetime Learning Institute on October 18

Chicago – Newberry International Research Library on October 23

To schedule a PISSARRO’S PLACES presentation for your organization, contact: Ann Saul at annsaul33@pissarrosplaces.com

 

 

PISSARRO IN SPAIN — THIS SUMMER–IT’S PISSARRO!

CTB.1993.9

The Orchard at Éragny, 1896, Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on deposit at Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, PDR 1134

AN EXTRAORDINARY EXHIBITION IS OPENING IN JUNE IN MADRID!!  Perhaps the gorgeous painting shown above will be among those in the exhibition at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.

Here’s the full story from their superb English website (http://www.museothyssen.org/en/thyssen/home)

Pissarro

From 04 June to 15 September 2013

In the summer of 2013 the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza will be presenting the first monographic exhibition in Spain on the Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro (1830-1903). A key figure within Impressionism (he wrote the movement’s foundational letter and was the only one of its artists to take part in all eight Impressionist exhibitions from 1874 to 1886), Pissarro was nonetheless eclipsed by the enormous popularity of his friends and colleagues, in particular Claude Monet. The exhibition includes more than 70 works with the aim of restoring Pissarro’s reputation and presenting him as one of the great pioneers of modern art. Landscape, the genre that prevailed in his output, will be the principal focus of this exhibition, which offers a chronologically structured tour of the places where the artist lived and painted: Louveciennes, Pontoise and Éragny, as well as cities such as Paris, London, Rouen, Dieppe and Le Havre. While Pissarro is traditionally associated with the rural world, to which he devoted more than three decades of his career, at the end of his life he shifted his attention to the city and his late output is dominated by urban views. Curated by Guillermo Solana, this exhibition will subsequently be shown at the CaixaForum, Barcelona.

THE TIMING IS EXCELLENT TO SEE PISSARRO AND THE PORTS IN LE HAVRE, FRANCE AND PISSARRO IN MADRID, SPAIN THIS SUMMER.

 



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