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

Screen Shot 2020-02-20 at 5.27.19 PM 2

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.



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


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






#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

Screen Shot 2019-11-16 at 10.59.59 AM

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



#Pissarro #HarvestingPotatoesPontoise #1874 #Pontoise #Abstract #Cézanne #Constructiviststroke #artestablishment #Impressionism #FirstImpressionistExhibition #brushstrokes #boldcolors #AbstractPissarro

The Harvest of Potatoes, Pontoise, 1874 (oil on canvas)

Harvesting Potatoes, Pontoise, 1874, Private collection, PDRS 360

Harvesting Potatoes, Pontoise (1874) is not an easy painting. Though it was made the same year as the First Impressionist Exhibition, it has few of the characteristics normally associated with Impressionism. It blatantly confronts us with its bold colors and conspicuous brushstrokes. If it is challenging to our eyes today, imagine how it must have looked 135 years ago!

At that time, there were no words to describe what Pissarro did in this painting. The motif is banal—nothing picturesque or important in the scene. There is no real focal point; the bright colors and visible brushstrokes pull our eye in every direction. The most familiar-looking details, the houses, are flattened against the hill.

The Harvest of Potatoes, Pontoise, 1874 (oil on canvas)

The figures, especially the kneeling woman in the foreground, are simply brushstrokes.


Instead of receding, the distant hills advance in bold colors applied in the up-down brushstroke that Cézanne would later adopt as his “constructivist” stroke.

The Harvest of Potatoes, Pontoise, 1874 (oil on canvas)

The paint on the canvas, the colors, the brushstrokes are all combined in this masterpiece of materiality.

The same techniques used by Pissarro in 1874 to make this sensational painting are being used by artists today. Back then, there was no name to describe them.  Today we recognize these techniques as abstract. Though this painting was never sold, Pissarro kept it.* Pissarro had thrown down the gauntlet, and academic art would never again be the same.

The painting remained with the artist during his lifetime and was inherited by his son Lucien. It was first shown in an exhibition well after Pissarro’s death in 1910 in Germany. (Pissarro: Critical Cataogue, 2005)

 Harvesting Potatoes, Pontoise is featured on the cover of the new book Abstract Pissarro which is available on Amazon.

Pissarro–Looking Beyond the Obvious

350 Landscape, Bright Sunlight, Pontoise 1874

Landscape, Bright Sunlight, Pontoise, 1874, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, PDRS 350

Pissarro’s landscapes can be deceptive. To the casual viewer, this painting looks pleasant but hardly exciting. The colors—harmonious shades of green and blue are lovely, but there is no red, no orange to grab the eye. The scene includes a man on a horse and a woman with a little girl, but no interaction. In fact, they are going opposite directions. The background of trees and houses seem to push forward instead of receding.


Our eyes are drawn to the patch of sunlight—not bright yellow, but pale peach streaked with purple shadows. Once again, Pissarro focuses our attention on the center of the painting where there is nothing at all of importance—a painting with no real focal point, where every element is equal. This is a device that Pissarro uses frequently, creating an all-over effect (an abstract device) in what appears to be a traditional landscape.


Pissarro, the master of composition, uses the shadows to create a series of diagonal lines that continue through the grasses in the lower left corner. The tree trunks that dominate the right side lean heavily to the left. If they were to fall over, they would follow the lines of the shadows into the grass. The strong horizontal of the road with its perpendicular path counters the heaviness of the diagonals.


This painting is also a virtuosic display of brushwork. The grasses are quick up-and-down strokes in various shades of green.


At the base of the tree trunk are mere touches of paint with no effort to shape them into leaves.


The figures on the right are merely streaks of paint—no more than a dozen visible brushstrokes and no defined face. Yet Pissarro arranges those rough marks in a way that causes us to see a woman and child.

IMG-1990 - Copy

 While this landscape may seem traditional, its radical composition and brushwork reveal Pissarro’s highly innovative techniques. It is often the less obvious paintings that offer the most surprises.


#Pissarro #CamillePissarro #Impressionism #Landscape #Pontoise #AvantGarde #Shadows #FrenchCountryside #Diagonals #All-OverPainting #MasterfulComposition  #ArtInnovator #Oiloncanvas #AbstractTechnique #RadicalBrushwork #NoFocalPoint #AbstractPissarro #ArtLovers #ArtStudents #PissarroFans #ArtHistory #1874


cover for blog


 ABSTRACT PISSARRO — now available on Amazon


One of the reviews of ABSTRACT PISSARRO

It was not for nothing that Paul Cezanne called himself a “pupil of Pissarro”. Now, finally! – – an author who approaches Camille Pissarro as the brilliant quiet revolutionary he was. In 2030, we will celebrate the Master’s two hundredth birthday. Problem is, history has doffed a respectful hat to Pissarro without acknowledging that his Mastery – – – and his abiding influence on so many others – – – helped birth not only Impressionism but the abstract values that presaged the wrenching directions of twentieth century expression. Beatifully produced with gorgeous illustrations, Saul’s book is graciously written, with comparative analysis that is fiercely independent, accessible and unexceptionable. A must-have volume that reshapes our thinking about Pissarro and modern art.
                                                                                                 Marshall Portnoy

%d bloggers like this: