PISSARRO in Paris, in Pontoise, and in Copenhagen

This Spring offers an unprecedented opportunity to study the work of Camille Pissarro with four unique exhibitions available at the same time.

PISSARRO at the Marmottan, already open, offers a comprehensive retrospective of his life’s work, bringing together many of his masterpieces.

marmottan

 

PISSARRO at Éragny is a more specialized look at his rural landscapes after 1884, a group of paintings that have not been closely studied before.

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CAMILLE PISSARRO

PISSARRO: In the Chestnut Grove at Louveciennes

 

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Chestnut Grove at Louveciennes, 1872, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, PDRS 233

Chestnut Grove at Louveciennes [PDRS 233], painted by Pissarro in 1872, is one of three Pissarro masterpieces that will be on exhibition when the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art opens their newly renovated Bloch Galleries on March 11. This painting alone makes a cross-country flight to Kansas City worthwhile.

When Pissarro returned to Louveciennes after the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), he immediately began painting sites near his own home. This grove of trees must have been very close since the Marly Aqueduct, visible in the background, also ran behind Pissarro’s house.

In real life, these few trees may have looked rather ordinary, but Pissarro used them to make a painting that is no less than radical. The trees make dark slashes across the sky and dig deep into the canvas. They force you to pay attention—nothing else is important, not the pale blue sky or the smattering of houses in the background, not even the Marly Aqueduct.

The big tree in the foreground establishes its preeminence with its broad trunk, white in the sunlight, and one twisted branch reaching up to and out of the canvas at the upper left corner. From the main trunk, another curved branch makes a sharp angle to the right. Between them a large branch seemingly comes from nowhere, extending parallel to the other one. To the right, another tree is bent over at an extremely sharp angle. Its trunk, unusually straight, reaches across half the canvas to the upper right corner. The other trees merely stand by, as straight as their twisted trunks will allow. In the foreground, dark purple shadows radiate from the larger tree, crisscrossing the pale grass even on the side where the sun is shining.

This painting is a grand pas de deux in composition. These two trees command the canvas—their branches embracing the top corners, their shadows making angles on the foreground. And it all comes back to the two trunks, the big gnarly one bent slightly to the left and the slim straight one with its dangerous angle to the right.

What was important to Pissarro was the pattern made by the trees and the shadows. If in your imagination, you eliminate the background and consider only the two trees, this composition might remind you of a painting by Franz Kline, with its bold slashes and sharp angles.

This is why Pissarro was so much more than we ever imagined—even during the birth of Impressionism, he was painting in an abstract manner.

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Vavvdavitch 1955 Franz Kline Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

 

PISSARRO: ENGRAVED IMPRESSIONS IN PONTOISE

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Another very important Pissarro exhibition will take place in Pontoise this spring featuring  Pissarro’s print-making.  The following information is taken from the Facebook page of Musée Pissarro.  The translation from French is mine with the help of Google translations. If you’d like to read the original,  see: https://www.facebook.com/Mus%C3%A9e-Camille-Pissarro-314021768084/

In the second half of the 19th century, Pissarro worked together with Degas to make original engravings. Through his research, freely associating watercolor, aquatint and dry point, they invented Impressionist printmaking. In addition to nearly 200 prints, Pissarro also made monotypes.

In the early 1860s, Pissarro made his first etchings with a classical system of lines and hatching. When Dr. Gachet installed a press in his house in Auvers-sur-Oise in 1873, Pissarro made engravings together with Guillaumin and Cezanne. Beginning in 1879, he began a fruitful collaboration with Degas, who introduced him to colored inks. Pissarro began experimenting with engravings in multiple states that allowed him to retain variants of the same composition.  The possibility of comparing different versions of a motif was a precious discovery that influenced his paintings of urban and port views in his later years. He called his engravings, “engraved impressions.”

This is the most important exhibition in France of Pissarro’s print-making in many decades. It includes works from the collections of the Musée Pissarro, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France and private collections along with monotypes from the Musee Malraux du Havre and the Musee d’Aix-les-Baines.

Musée Tavet-Delacour, 4 rue Lemercier 95300 Pontoise

Open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 12:30 and from 13:30 to 18:00

6. PONTOISE d.pdf - Adobe Acrobat Professional

Pontoise is situated on high cliffs overlooking the Oise River. I took this photograph, one of my favorites, from the top of the hill where the Musée Pissarro is now located. It was in Pontoise that Pissarro painted some of his most beautiful Impressionist works. Many of the sites of his paintings are much the same as when he painted them. Visit the new Tourist Office on the banks of the Oise for more information.  Pontoise is just a 40-minute train ride from Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris.

 

PISSARRO: Two Exhibitions in Paris and One in Copenhagen

What a wonderful opportunity to study the works of Camille Pissarro. Three outstanding exhibitions –two in Paris and another in Copenhagen.  I will be at all three exhibitions before the end of June and will post reviews on this blog.

PARIS, FRANCE

MUSÉE MARMOTTAN
marmottan

CAMILLE PISSARRO “FIRST OF IMPRESSIONNISTES”

From February 23 to July 2, 2017

The Marmottan Monet Museum presents, from February 23 to July 2, 2017, the first monographic exhibition Camille Pissarro in Paris for 36 years. Some seventy-five of his masterpieces, paintings and temperas, from major museums worldwide and prestigious private collections, tracing the work of Camille Pissarro, from his youth in the Danish West Indies to large series urban of Paris, Rouen and Le Havre at the end of his life. Considered by Cézanne as ” the first Impressionist ” Pissarro was one of the founders of this group. It is also the only one to participate in their eight exhibitions. Companion and faithful friend of Monet, master of Cézanne and Gauguin, Seurat inspirer, supporter of Signac, Pissarro is a major and essential artist. Polyglot intellectual, committed and militant, listening to the younger generation, his work, powerful and evolving, offers a unique view of the research that has animated the Impressionists and Post-circles of the second half of the nineteenth century.

Musée Marmottan, Paris, France

MUSÉE DU LUXEMBOURG

luxembourg

Pissarro in Éragny: Anarchy and nature

From March 16 to July 9, 2017

In 1884, Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) settled with his family in the village of Eragny, in the Oise. For twenty years, he is alive with his farm and fields of poetry, receiving his friends artists, Monet, Cézanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin. He continued his painting of French rural life and discovers anarchist ideals of the late nineteenth century. The exposure of the Luxembourg Museum traces the recent years, both bucolic and committed to one who is considered one of the fathers of Impressionism.

Exhibition organized by the Réunion des Musées Nationaux – Grand Palais.

Musée Luxembourg, Paris, France

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK

ORDRUPGAARD MUSEUM

copenhagen

PISSARRO. A MEETING ON ST. THOMAS

Is there a connection between the Danish Golden Age painting and French Impressionism? It will come as a surprise to most that there should exist such a connection. There is, however, a link, as a meeting between the Danish painter Fritz Melbye and the later ‘father’ of French Impressionism Camille Pissarro had a crucial impact on the emergence of one of the most significant movements in art history.

The meeting took place in the middle of the 19th century on St. Thomas in the Danish West Indies. Camille Pissarro was born there as a Danish citizen in 1830 and Melbye, four years older, decided to go to the island around 1850. The two young artists were to spend a couple of years together, developing their artistic skills. This exhibition will display how, contrary to popular belief, Melbye actually took on the role of mentor and teacher to Pissarro thus influencing the latter profoundly.

The exhibition Pissarro. A Meeting on St. Thomas sheds new light on Impressionist history through the artistic heritage passed on from Melbye to Pissarro. The exhibition at Ordrupgaard, which presents a significant amount of paintings, oil sketches, water colours and drawings from around the world, will thus add a new dimension to the understanding of the emergence of French Impressionism.

Ordrupgaard Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark 

10 March – 2 July 2017

Young Pissarro in Venezuela

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Mountain Landscape with a Hut c. 1854 Private Collection PDRS 5

Pissarro is known to most people as an Impressionist, but many of them do not realize that he was a professional artist in Venezuela, long before the advent of the Impressionist movement.

He was born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands in 1830 and at the age of 12, his parents sent him to boarding school in Passy, then a suburb of Paris, where he learned to draw. When he returned from France to St. Thomas in 1847, Pissarro took his place in the family business but spent much of his time drawing whatever was in front of him—sailing ships in the harbor, tropical landscapes, and people at work and leisure. In May 1851, he met the painter Fritz Melbye, who was commissioned by the Danish government to record the flora and fauna of the Danish Antillas and Central America.

Melbye was impressed by the expertise and vitality of the younger man’s drawings and convinced Pissarro to accompany him to Caracas, Venezuela, where they established an art studio and sold paintings.

Pissarro’s landscape, Mountain Landscape with a Hut (c. 1854) shows just how sophisticated he was as an artist at the age of 24. It is a complex composition, employing a series of diagonal lines, a technique Pissarro used throughout his career. The indistinct foliage in the left corner provides a small diagonal from the foot of the tree to the rocks. The second diagonal may be drawn from the top of the tree on the left to the crest of the two palm trees on the right. All of that leads up to the most dramatic diagonal, the right slope of what is probably Mt. Avila, which Pissarro and Melbye climbed in July, 1854. To make sure the steepness of the mountain is noticed, Pissarro pierces the diagonal line with a white wispy cloud.  The small hut on level ground surrounded by figures provides safety and stability in these precipitous surroundings, and Pissarro focuses attention on it with warm sunlight.

Pissarro -Figures in a Landscape

 

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Two Young Peasant Girls, Chatting under the Trees, Pontoise, 1881, Private collection, PDRS 65

 

After focusing on landscapes in the 1860s and early 70s, Pissarro turned again (Brettell and Lloyd 1980, p 5.)to figure painting, a subject he had often depicted in St. Thomas and Venezuela. To best understand Pissarro’s figure painting, it is helpful to consider his drawings. Instead of long flowing lines, he constructed forms with many separate lines. “The idea of the whole figure seen as an enclosed form did not interest the young Pissarro.”1

In his paintings, this translates to forms that are more angular than fluid. This is evident in Two Young Peasant Girls Chatting under Trees, Pontoise, [PDRS 654] painted in 1881. The figures of the girls are set at angles, the sitting girl at almost a right angle while the standing girl’s right foot juts out putting her skirt at a slight angle with her bodice. This angle matches that of the leaning tree in the background.

The form of the standing girl is almost a series of color blocks. Her bodice is nearly square with little sign of actual bodily contours. A few light lines hint of a checker-board pattern in her blouse. Her light-blue skirt is a vertical parallelogram with shaded areas. The red-checkered kerchief covers her face. The form of the other girl is almost indistinct, and her features are mere notations. Both figures are built up with tiny touches of paint, often applied in directional strokes to suggest the form underneath. The foliage behind them is constructed using the same tiny directional strokes that almost stitch the girls into the background. In fact, the brushstrokes are so similar that the girl leaning on the tree would almost disappear into the tree trunk except for the dramatic difference in colors.

This figure painting is so different from what artists had done in the past. The people, who are unknown and have no special importance, are in a place of no significance. There is nothing in the background to tell us anything about them or why they are there—nothing to suggest a storyline. Théodore Duret wrote later, “[Pissarro] portrayed men and women as he saw them, with a simplicity of method and a direct truth of observation greater than had been known before.”2

The composition of the painting, based on the angles of the trees, pulls the standing girl into a highly geometric matrix. Indeed, the shape of the tree at the far right mirrors the stance of the girl. As Brettell and Lloyd say about one of Pissarro’s figure drawings, “She exists within, and merges with, the structured confines of her setting.”3

The area behind the trees is filled with colored planes, and only one tiny house in the distance suggests any depth. The highly-worked surface calls attention to the vigorous brushstrokes and diverts attention from the girls to the making of the painting.

Pissarro had painted this location once before in 1875 in The Climb, Rue de la Côte-du-Jalet, Pontoise. The addition of figures makes the depiction of the steep cliff even more complicated. (See the previous blog on The Climb.)

 

 

1Brettell, R. R. and C. Lloyd (1980). A Catalogue of the Drawings by Camille Pissarro in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Oxford, The Clarendon Press.

2Duret, T. D. (1910). Manet and the French Impressionists. Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott Company.

3Brettell, R. R. and C. Lloyd (1980). A Catalogue of the Drawings by Camille Pissarro in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Oxford, The Clarendon Press.

 

 

 

Pissarro: Impressionist or Abstract?

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Ploughed Fields Near Osny 1873 Private Collection PDRS 290

Many of Pissarro’s paintings fit the expected Impressionist “mold,” but his œuvre is full of paintings that do not match that style and are difficult to explain. For instance, the painting, Ploughed Fields Near Osny, made one year before the first Impressionist Exhibition, seems almost strange compared to most Impressionist paintings. While it depicts an imminent change in weather, there is none of the lightness and “prettiness” we have come to expect from the Impressionists.

What it offers is far more interesting—an earthy grid of colors and texture—large rectangles—one of deep purple in the foreground fading into brick red and then light salmon, others of different shades of green. The areas are further defined by varying brushstrokes—tiny repetitive up-and-down strokes next to circular forms and in the next section, short puddles of paint that create a mottled effect. While it appears to be a commonplace study in perspective, the genius of Pissarro places the view at a slight diagonal and curves the horizon line ever so gently. The farmer following two white horses and the three trees are just window-dressing for this captivating painting based on an abstract pattern.


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