PISSARRO – In the Midst of Turmoil

#Pissarro #CamillePissarro #Paris #Dreyfus #anti-Semitism #epidemic #rabbi #Jewish #EmileZola #J’Accuse #GrandeHotelduLouve #Durand-Ruel #LucienPissarro #FelixPissarro #Hausmann #AbstractPissarro #PissarrosPlaces

Place du Théâtre-Français and the Avenue de l’Opéra

Place du Théâtre-Français and the Avenue de l’Opéra, Sunlight, Winter Morning, 1898, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rheims, France, PDRS 1202

Paris, January 1898 – A terrible epidemic as contagious as the virus rampant in the world today—anti-Semitism–was sweeping through all of France.  It divided families, ended long-standing friendships, and sowed seeds of hate and distrust. The Dreyfus affair, in which a Jewish army officer was falsely accused, had mobs in the street. When Émile Zola published his “J’accuse!”, Pissarro sent him a letter assuring him of his support: “Know that I am amongst those who think that you have just rendered a fine service to France…” He also signed a petition in favor of Dreyfus in the newspaper L’Aurore.

Pissarro never tried to conceal his Jewish roots though he was a non-practicing Jew and an atheist. Above all, he was a committed anarchist. With his deep-set eyes and long white beard, he even looked like a rabbi. In his rooms at the Grande Hôtel du Louvre in the center of Paris, he was in the midst of the uproar as riotous crowds gathered every evening. On the 18th of January, he ventured out into the gathering mob to see his dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. He wrote to Lucien about the experience: “Yesterday, while I was making my way along the boulevards to Durand’s at five o’clock, I found myself in the midst of a band of little scamps followed by ruffians shouting: “Death to the Jews!  Down with Zola!” I passed calmly through them to the rue Laffitte, they didn’t even take me for a Jew!” While Pissarro reports his good fortune in getting there safely, he obviously was aware of the imminent danger. There was little relief during Pissarro’s Paris stay. In February, he wrote: “Things have hardly improved.”

On top of the anxiety produced by the very real danger, Pissarro was still grieving for his son Félix who had just died on November 25 and was buried where he died in London. How did Pissarro cope? How did he make some of the most beautiful paintings of his entire life? At one point, he wrote: “Work is a wonderful regulator of mind and body. I forget all sorrow, grief, bitterness, and I even ignore them altogether in the joy of working.”  So he poured himself into this series of paintings, creating the masterpiece featured here.

It must have been early morning because the sunlight streaming on the buildings is especially golden and the blue shadows are still deep. Even though the majestic new opera house at the end of the avenue was already an important landmark, it is merely a shadow. Likewise, the new Hausmann buildings are sketched with few details to catch the eye. Instead, the deep shadows direct the view to the large patch of sunlight not in the center of the canvas, but well to the left, where there is almost nothing. While other artists made pictures featuring things of importance or beauty, Pissarro made paintings that pose questions and engage the intellect. This was Pissarro’s genius. And while acknowledging all that was taking place around him, he was able to continue his work creating this masterpiece.

To all those who read this blog, stay safe and be well.

 

 

 

 

Pissarro in Cleveland

#Pissarro #ClevelandMuseumofArt #KeithleyGift #Dieppe #Fishmarket #quaiDuquesne #Pissarro’sPlaces #AbstractPissarro

1439 The Fish Market, Dieppe 1902

The Fish Market, Dieppe, 1902, Cleveland Museum of Art, PDRS 1439

Camille Pissarro’s wonderful painting, The Fish Market, Dieppe (1902) [PRDS 1439] is now in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art, thanks to a monumental gift of numerous paintings valued at more than $100 million by Joseph P. and Nancy F. Keithley. The CMA already has two other Pissarro paintings, both from the 1870s, so this addition from the artist’s later works adds important depth to their collection.

This is one of twenty-one views of Dieppe that Pissarro made during his second visit to the city. He arrived in early July 1902 and stayed until the end of September, returning to the Hôtel du Commerce for lodging. To vary his choice of motifs, he rented a different room at 7 Arcades de la Poissonnerie to use as a studio, which gave him views of the harbor, the fish market, and the quai Duquesne in both directions. This painting shows the open-shed fish market which was practically beneath Pissarro’s window. The antique postcard shows the fish market and behind it, the arcade where Pissarro painted his views of the harbor. Just to the right of the fish market were railroad tracks for the train from Rouen which had its terminus on the quai. In another painting, Pissarro showed the arrival of the train with crowds of people lining the tracks. Unfortunately, the train no longer comes into the heart of Dieppe, and that large space has been filled with flower beds.

Postcard - Fish Market

Antique postcard of Dieppe, showing the railroad tracks, the fish market, and the arcades where Pissarro painted.

Arcades de la Poissonnerie, Dieppe

On the right, the Arcades de la Poissonnerie where Pissarro had his studio, Dieppe

Pissarro’s location in the window of the arcade limits his composition choices in this painting and the one with the train. This particular view, looking directly down and to his left, offered him little leeway in arranging pictorial elements. Maybe that is why he made only two paintings of this particular view, obviously preferring to paint the more spacious port areas busy with boats of all sizes and descriptions.

It is hard to determine if the crowd of people in front of the fish market are there in early morning to buy fresh fish or if they are awaiting the arrival of the train. In the center of the painting just above the edge of the crowd is indication of a faint circular line, marked by tiny strokes that may represent people, which may be the railroad tracks. This is easily verified when the two paintings are side-by-side. It is a particular phenomenon in Pissarro’s paintings that very often in the center of the painting, there is simply nothing. And this is one of them; all the action is happening around the center which is empty. Just above the center of the canvas, Pissarro depicts the row of houses that line quai Duquesne as flat blocks with no volume. One steeply pitched red roof seems to draw the eye back to the fish market below. The spindly masts and dark sails of the boats on the right struggle to balance the large building and crowd on the left. Perhaps that is why Pissarro placed a puff of dark smoke above the boats. Since it is similar in color to the roof of the market, it creates a diagonal that pulls the eye upward and to the right of the canvas. The dark smoke could well have been present since some of the steamboats that plied the English Channel also had sails, as Pissarro showed in other paintings from this series.

This Pissarro painting looks simple at first glance, but as is frequently the case with Pissarro, it turns out to be more complicated and far more interesting in a closer look. Pissarro obviously enjoyed the city, writing: “Dieppe is a wonderful place for a painter who likes life, movement, colors.”

NEW EMAIL LIST FOR LOVERS OF PISSARRO

In order to share information and insights about Pissarro, I am establishing an email mailing list. I’d like to hear your feedback and what you have learned about Pissarro’s paintings.  To join, please write me at PissarroList@gmail.com. –Ann Saul, art writer and administrator of ArtBookAnnex.com.

ABSTRACT PISSARRO, the book that shows how Pissarro planted the seeds of abstract art in the mid 1850s, is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites.

PISSARRO’S PLACES, the book that explores the places Pissarro painted (including Dieppe), is also available on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites.

 

 

PISSARRO AT MARDI GRAS

#Pissarro #Mardi Gras #BoulevardMontmartre #Paris #parade #Durand-Ruel #Rouen #Lucien #streamers #FatTuesday #canvases #Pointillism

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Boulevard Montmartre, Mardi Gras Afternoon, 1897, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, Calif. PDRS 1163

Pissarro’s return to Paris in February 1897 was encouraged by Paul Durand-Ruel, his dealer who quickly purchased six paintings the artist had made the previous month in the city’s Saint-Lazare Quarter near the train station. This time Pissarro stayed at the Grand Hôtel de Russie in a room that gave him a view of “the whole length” of Boulevard Montmartre. During the nearly three months he stayed there, Pissarro made sixteen paintings, twelve of which were quickly bought by Durand-Ruel.

On March 2, Fat Tuesday (the day before Lent), Boulevard Montmartre was the scene of the Mardi Gras parade, the Promenade du Bœuf Gros (Procession of the Fat Ox), a huge procession more than two kilometers long featuring carnival floats surrounded by men and women in costumes. Spectators who came to see the parade were also in costume, and those watching from the top floors of apartment buildings threw streamers of red, white, and blue.

Pissarro prepared in advance, writing his son Lucien on February 13: “Here I am installed [in my hotel room] coating large canvases [with paint]; I shall try and prepare one or two for painting the crowd on Mardi Gras; I don’t yet know what it will be like, I’m very much afraid the streamers will be a problem.”

Nearly two weeks before the celebration, Pissarro wrote Lucien again: “It will be a matter of painting Mardi Gras, the crowd, for the effect will last only one day. I’m told the boulevards will be crowded one, even two days before.”

While his other paintings of the Boulevard Montmartre portray light carriage traffic and few pedestrians, the painting he made on Fat Tuesday is vastly different. The scene is covered with people; in the center the parade moves forward while spectators spill off the sidewalks into the streets. Each person is a tiny brushstroke or two, but among the mass of black and white coats are lines of red or blue, probably uniforms of groups in the parade. The facades of the buildings and the bare tree limbs are engulfed in a mass of streamers, each one a tiny brushstroke spreading a thin wash of paint over the scene.

No doubt Pissarro’s knowledge of Pointillist technique came in handy as he applied the multitude of tiny brushstrokes. The sharp contrast of bright white points among the darker colors creates a sense of movement as the parade marches forward. His painting was obviously a success because Durand-Ruel bought it from the artist in May and three months later sold it to a collector in Rouen. The painting is now in the collection of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, Calf.

*Information for this post is from Pissarro: Critical Catalogue of Paintings, vol. III by Joachim Pissarro and Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, 2005.

 

ABSTRACT PISSARRO

the book that reveals how Pissarro initiated the techniques that became modern art, is now available online:

Amazon:https://smile.amazon.com/ABSTRACT-PISSARRO-Planting-Seeds-Abstract/dp/0988568519/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=ann+saul&qid=1582320936&s=books&sr=1-1

Barnes and Noble:https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/abstract-pissarro-ann-saul/1132154627?ean=9780988568518

 

 

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PISSARRO AT SOTHEBY’S LONDON

#Pissarro #Sotheby’s #Pointillism #London #Impressionist #1888 #Durand-Ruel  #Levy #Nazi #Orsay #Monoprix

857 Gelee Blanche, Jeune Paysanne Faisant du Feu 1888

Gelée blanche, jeune paysanne faisant du feu, 1888, Private collection, PDRS 857

This spectacular painting by Pissarro was the star at Sotheby’s recent Impressionist sale in London.  It sold for $17.3 million, reportedly the second highest price ever paid for a Pissarro painting.

The painting focuses on the young girl and the long stick she is breaking to feed the blazing fire. The stick reaches almost to the top of the canvas, and its bend is reflected in the opposing curve of the girl’s body. This together with the boy’s figure creates what would be a very traditional pyramid composition except for the smoke pulling the eye away from the center to the right. The cows in the background echo the movement as they meander in the same direction.

But the interesting composition pales in comparison with the multitudes of tiny Pointillist brushstrokes in juxtaposing colors. Would the girl’s skirt be blowing so briskly without the different shades of red, purple and orange? Would the smoke billow so thickly without the dots of white, gray, and blue? The orange-yellow and pale blue-lilac horizontal stripes of the field are crisp with frost because of the precise division of color. Pissarro worked on this painting for about a year, and immediately sold it to Durand-Ruel.

In 1930, the painting was sold to collector Gaston Lévy, co-founder of what would become Monoprix, the French supermarket chain. He fled the Nazis in 1940, and this painting was confiscated. After the end of the war,  it was found in a private collection, and the French government seized it. It was then assigned to the Musée d’Orsay from 2000 to 2018 when it was restituted to Lévy’s heirs. (For more on this story see Antiques Trade Gazette: https://www.antiquestradegazette.com/news/2020/recovered-works-top-sotheby-s-modern-art-auction/

This painting is a perfect example of what Pointillism can be—full of light, color and movement. Too often Pointillist paintings feel static, as if there is no air. This painting breathes. It is vibrant and energetic as the girl rushes to break the stick, the wind blowing her skirt and the smoke. It is truly one of Pissarro’s greatest masterpieces.

 

PISSARRO: Finding the Abstract in Nature

#Pissarro #AbstractPissarro #CamillePissarro #Rothko #Abstractpainting #NoFocalPoint #1874 #Fog #FoggyPaintings $FoggyMornings #FansofPissarro #PissarroFans #Abstract #ColorFields #ComplementaryColors

 

Landscape, 1874 (oil on canvas)

Fog, 1874, Private collection, PDRS 331

Dense fog can be disorienting, causing the eye to see things in a different way. The dense fog over this lumpy field suggests the unknown, a mystery yet to be resolved. This effect is evident today in a photograph taken from a window in Philadelphia at midday.

Philly fog

Foggy morning in Philadelphia, January 4, 2020

With the passage of time, 146 years to be exact, Pissarro’s painting is not startling. We now recognize this and other techniques that Pissarro invented as abstract, used by contemporary artists working today.

The simple reading of Pissarro’s painting is that of a common landscape, depicting some condition of weather. Impressionists often portrayed various types of weather, painting fog or mist in their scenes. However, most of these artists provided a recognizable narrative focal point to draw the eye.  In this painting, the eye searches for a central focal point but, finding none, settles instead on the complementary contrast of sky and land as two distinct color fields.

The composition of this Pissarro is stunningly similar to the well-defined sections of a Rothko painting. While the Pissarro does not have solid color fields like those of Rothko, the overall effect is similar. What sets the Pissarro apart from Rothko paintings are the three odd-shaped elements near the center of the canvas that look vaguely like a curved tree trunk and two people. Pissarro minimized their importance by dissolving the shapes into the background. Instead, the apparent point of interest becomes the complementary contrast between the sky and the ground, two color fields only slightly more complicated than those depicted by Rothko in his paintings.

One might argue that Pissarro just painted the scene as he saw it, and that he did not intentionally paint something that today resembles a color-field painting. However, such an explanation fails to appreciate the intellectual energy Pissarro constantly devoted to his original experimentations with technique.

 

Material for this posting was taken from the book ABSTRACT PISSARRO, available on Amazon.

 

 

Pissarro, Le Causette- The Wrightsman Bequest

#Pissarro #MetropolitanMuseumofArt #WrightsmanBequest #Pointillism #FigurePainting #1891-92 #Artbookannex.com #AbstractPissarro

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Le Causette (The Chat), 1891-92, Metropolitan Museum of Art, PDRS 912

Le Causette (1891-92) [PDRS 912] is one of the paintings listed in the recent announcement of the bequest of Charles and Jayne Wrightsman to the Metropolitan Museum of Art­ in New York. This painting, given to the museum in 1973, is frequently on view with other Pissarro paintings at the museum.

One of Pissarro’s loveliest figure paintings, it features two women resting from their work in the fields. What might have been a traditional motif becomes a distinctly modern composition under Pissarro’s brush. Instead of giving the two women equal status, he places one in the lower left corner while the other stands some distance away. Their gaze implies intimacy, but the space between them is empty with only pink earth in the background. The painting is replete with diagonals: the back and head of the woman on the left continue upward in the line of trees to the edge of the field. The standing woman leans forward in an opposing diagonal that would meet beyond the top of the canvas. At her back are diagonal rows of plants. The horizonal pink and green stripes immediately behind the two women secure the composition and attempt to hold the eye in the foreground.

Though Pissarro had moved away from pointillism by 1891, he modified the technique to create the luminous colors especially evident in the blouses of the two women. On the left, he uses various touches of blue, white, and pink and on the right, darker shades of blue with a touch of light orange. The colors of the earth between them range from lavender to salmon, and from coral to yellow.

While other artists created pictures that told or suggested stories, Pissarro usually avoided this practice. There is no indication on the faces of the two women of any emotion that would suggest a narrative, and while this painting has caused some to suggest a psychological incident, there is nothing in Pissarro’s painting to support it. It is, quite simply, an exquisite painting.

 

 

Remembering Camille Pissarro–Looking Closely

#Pissarro #Impressionism #AbstractPissarro #Gauguin #Sotheby’s #Originality #Art #Visiblebrushstrokes #Landscapes #Unconventional #Haystacks #

718 Landscape with Haystacks 1883 copy

As we celebrate the life and extraordinary art of Camille Pissarro on this day, we are challenged to take a new and fresh look at his work. For Pissarro, art demanded no less than the “whiplash of originality,” (his words).1 The paintings we see most often and remember are frequently those that conform with our idea of Impressionism. But Pissarro was not bound by any rules or standards. Even while he was inventing Impressionism, he was investigating techniques unthinkable at that time—no narrative, no focal point, lack of perspective, visible brushstrokes, flattened structures, and nontraditional composition.

His painting, Landscape with Haystacks, Osny, 1883 [PDRS 718], shows how Pissarro looked at an ordinary motif and created an unconventional painting that defies tradition with its tightly woven brushstrokes in colors almost Fauvist, nearly unrecognizable forms that seem to melt into the background, and the opposition of sharp diagonal lines. Truly, a masterpiece, radical for its time and even now.

His genius was not lost on Paul Gauguin, who according to Sotheby’s,2 was the first owner of the painting. Sotheby’s also points out that this painting by Pissarro foreshadows Monet’s haystacks painted in 1891, which are more traditional in composition and execution.

To properly honor Pissarro, we must look closely at all of his works, not just those easy to understand, and appreciate the immensity of his creativity and inventiveness. There is much more to be learned from Camille Pissarro.

 1 John Rewald, ed., Camille Pissarro: Letters to His Son Lucien, p. 323.

2 Sotheby’s website: https://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2019/impressionist-modern-art-day-n10148/lot.430.html

 



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