Paris Loves Pissarro – 2 of 3


800 La Maison Delafolie a Eragny 1885

La Maison Delafolie a Éragny, Soleil Couchant 1885 Musée d’Orsay, Paris PDRS 800

The Pissarro exhibition at the Musée Luxembourg in Paris is totally different from the one at the Marmottan.  “Pissarro in Éragny” focuses only on the paintings the artist did in the last two decades of his life at his rural home on the edge of Normandy. 

Pissarro had lived in Pontoise for many years, but it became too expensive for his large family. After a long search, he found a big house on a generous plot of land in the tiny village of Éragny (it is still a tiny village, but now has one stop light to slow the large trucks who used to speed through the main street). 

Eventually, Pissarro and his wife Julie bought the house, and he transformed the large barn into a studio.  Many of the paintings in this exhibition were made from one of the windows in this studio.

This is the only group of Pissarro’s works that had not been studied before now. The narrow focus of these paintings displays the genius of Pissarro in that he could look at scenes so familiar and still see new visions.

When Pissarro moved to Éragny in 1884, he did not know Seurat and had not yet begun his experiments with Pointillism. But he had been studying the books of color written by Chevreul and the American Ogden Rood. His paintings show that he was already practicing a form of color division. In “La Maison Delafolie a Éragny, Soleil Couchant (1885). he uses several different colors to depict the haystack and the side of the building, as well as the patch of grass and the road.


800 detail to use

Detail PDRS 800

After learning how Seurat had formalized color division into a system called Pointillism, Pissarro enthusiastically began experimenting with the technique. In “Paysannes Ramassant des Herbs, Éragny,” (1886) he uses thousands of tiny dots, placing contrasting colors side by side—colors that would mix in the viewer’s eye to produce the desired hue. This particular painting is interesting in that Pissarro uses the fields and the lines of trees to outline the geometric aspects on the canvas. The lines and angles contrast with the curves and puffiness of the clouds in the sky.

830 Paysannes Ramassant des Herbes, Eragny 1886

Paysannes Ramassant des Herbes, Éragny 1886 Private collection PDRS 830

In “Gelée Blanche, Jeune Paysanne Faisant de Feu” (1888), Pissarro shows just how much can be done with the tiny dots, especially in the fire and smoke as they blend together to create color and form.

1888 GElee Blanche, Jeune Paysanne Faisant du Feu 1888

Gelée Blanche, Jeune Paysanne Faisant du Feu 1888 Musée d’Orsay, Paris PDRS 857

857 Detail

Detail PDRS 857

After a few years, Pissarro abandoned Pointillism because it took so long to produce a finished work and because he missed the spontaneity of his earlier style of painting. Instead, he developed a larger brushstroke which he frequently produced in a series of cross-hatches, but he retained the color division that he had developed before his experiments with Pointillism.

Pissarro used the passing seasons and the weather to create new views of the land around Éragny.  In “Effet de neige a Éragny” (1894), he allows the snow to define the geometric outline of the meadow. The crooked fence and line of trees make diagonals from the left corner and form angles with the horizontal fence and line of trees. In the muted colors of late autumn, he uses light orange to emphasize the angle.  The droopy tree on the right lends some curves to what is otherwise a study in lines.

1018 Effet de neige a eragny 1894

Niege, Soleil, Couchant, Eragny 1894 New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA PDRS 1021

In one of my personal favorites of the entire exhibition, “Femmes Dans un Clos, Printemps, Temps Gris, Eragny” (1895) Pissarro layers two of his favorite techniques. In the very back is a line of trees forming a screen. Over it he places the curvy limbs of a blooming fruit tree which adds another screen to the existing trees.  In the foreground, he places rows of plowed earth in straight lines, which are mirrored right above them  by the straight fence rows. The composition is so complex and so interesting that you almost fail to see the two women working in the field on the right.

1075 Femmes Dans un Clos, Printemps, Temps Gris, Eragny 1895

Femmes dans un Clos, Printemps, Temps Gris, Eragny 1895 Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada PDRS 1075

This exhibition on Pissarro’s Érany paintings provides a clearer understanding of his passage through Pointillism to a new way of painting that allowed him to express his own “sensations” and create new ways of looking at paint on canvas. The exhibition runs until July 23.

Paris Loves Pissarro — 1 of 3



Self-portrait with a palette 1896 Dallas Museum of Art

On my second visit to the Musée Marmottan, I learned that they have extended the exhibition for two extra weeks!  That’s how big the crowds are at the exhibition, “Pissarro, First Among the Impressionists.” On both visits, the galleries were thick with people, including a tour bus from who knows where and groups of school children who paid close attention to the details.

Pissarro, who once said of viewers that “they pass me by,” would have been so pleased to see that the French people have come to appreciate his work.  And he would have been so proud of the superb exhibition mounted by Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, co-author of the Pissarro catalog raisonne. Because she knows all of his paintings–literally, she knew which to choose for this exhibition.

It begins with a painting Pissarro made of his birthplace, St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. It looks like an Impressionist painting but he made it in 1855, nineteen years before the first Impressionist exhibition. Monet was only 15 years old at the time.


Two Women by the Sea

Two Women near the sea, 1856,  National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Another painting of barges on the Seine made in 1863, also looks Impressionist, with the cloudy sky and reflections in the water. There are several early paintings, but only one reflects Corot’s influence, showing the young Pissarro’s stubborn independence from the beginning.

There are so many gorgeous paintings from Louveciennes, and this exhibition has three classical ones, including two snow paintings that are totally Impressionistic, including purple shadows.


The Route to Versailles, Louveciennes, snow, 1870, E. G. Buhrle Fondation, Zurich

The later paintings from Pontoise include “Climbing Path” which I’ve written about previously in this blog. “View of the Hermitage” shows Pissarro’s interest in using a screen of trees that forces the eye to wander in and out with no place to rest, much like Pollock’s drip paintings. Of course, the famous “Hoarfrost,” featured in this blog before, is present and continues to intrigue the viewer.

285 Hoarfrost copy

Hoar Frost, 1873, Musee d’Orsay, Paris


The exhibition includes a large number of figure paintings, including the “Young Girl with a Stick,” which is used in posters for the exhibition. One of my favorites, The Little Maid” makes me marvel at Pissarro’s composition where he plays rectangular doors and the diagonal broomstick against the circular edge of the table and the curves of the chairs.

Young Girl with Stick

Young Girl with a Stick, 1881, Musee d’Orsay, Paris

One of the biggest surprises was the large group of fans painted by Pissarro. The shape of the fan presents interesting composition problems for artists. Pissarro painted them because they didn’t take too long, and he could sell them at a price that almost anyone could afford, unlike his paintings.

Berger et moutons

Shepherd and Sheet, 1890, gouache and crayon on silk, Perez Simon Collection, Mexico City, Mexico.

One of the stars of the show was Pissarro’s pointillist painting from Philadelphia Museum of Art, “l’Ile Lacroix, effect of fog,” which is simply incredible in its use of greys, blues, and yellows, reminding one of a Rothko painting.

l'Isle La Croix

The Seine at Rouen, Isle Lacroix, effect of fog, 1888, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia


Another masterpiece is “The Gathering of the Apples,” which has a mysterious square shadow set diagonally against its square canvas. The positions of the three women form a triangle over the shadow, all of it painted with millions of tiny dots.

Gathering Apples

The Gatherine of Apples, 1886, Ohara Museum of Art, Kurashiki, Japan

The paintings from Eragny include one of my favorites, “Autumn, Poplars, Eragny” from Denver. The mixture of yellows and orange with a myriad of greens is breathtaking.

Autumn, Poplars, Eragny

Autumn, Poplars, Eragny, 1894, Denver Art Museum, Denver

The cityscapes include a wonderful rainy Paris scene looking down the boulevard to the Opera Garnier. “The Boieldieu Bridge, Rouen, effect of fog” offers an intriguing view of the Seine filled with boats, and at the bottom of the canvas, a steam train chugs along the quai, its steam adding to the haze, creating a vision in blue and gray.

Of course, the exhibition would not be complete without a self-portrait of the artist, and the curator chose one that is seldom seen. Pissarro, looking in a mirror, pictures himself in his artist’s smock and a beret, easel in one hand, brush in the other. His gray-white beard is a flurry of quick brushstrokes, and his eyes peer out from behind large round glasses. There are extra brushstrokes in the lower left corner that appear to make his smock longer, but don’t. Isn’t that just like Pissarro to always give us something to question, something to wonder about!


PISSARRO in Paris and Pontoise–Three Exhibitions at Once

285 Hoarfrost copy

Hoar Frost, 1873


Market at Gisors


1184 Stairs at corner of garden, Eragny 1897

There is no way to prepare for this after years of traveling from Wuppertal, Germany to Sydney, Australia just to see the few Pissarro exhibitions that come up.  Now in Paris and its suburbs, there are three Pissarro exhibitions at the same time—an unbelievable feast of works to study and admire. I saw all three in just three days. Overload of Pissarro is never a bad thing, but it leaves one speechless and unable to articulate very much about any of them. I will be seeing the two in Paris again, and I will write detailed reviews about all three in the coming weeks. But for now, a small sample of each one.

Pissarro at the Marmottan is a retrospective of Pissarro’s works, the first in some thirty-six years in Paris.  It was elegantly curated by Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, co-author of the Pissarro catalogue raisonne (2005) and Christophe Duvivier, director of the two museums in Pontoise, the  Tavet-Delacour and Camille Pissarro Museums. It charts the many innovations of Pissarro from his early days in Saint Thomas to his last paintings in Paris. The paintings chosen for the exhibition are masterworks, many of them familiar to Pissarro enthusiasts, but it also includes unfamiliar works, many of them from private collections. A large number of the paintings are from museums and collections in the United States and have not been seen in France for many decades. One painting from Australia was never exhibited in France. It was bought immediately after completion by art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel who took it to the US for an exhibition where it was sold. This is the first time it has been seen in France. Because of the Marmottan’s limited space, the exhibition is not huge, but the careful, knowledgeable choices make it extremely satisfying. A marvelous catalog in French and English includes beautiful reproductions and closeups of the paintings.

Pissarro in Pontoise, curated by Christophe Duvivier, displays a large collection of works on paper held by the Camille Pissarro Museum in Pontoise. This lovely town on the Oise River was home to Pissarro for two periods of time including about 16 years, and the paintings he made there are some of his most beloved. The exhibition, filling four large galleries, includes watercolors, etching, prints, and engravings from throughout his career. Some are of Pontoise sites, and others include works created at Rouen, Dieppe and Éragny. This exhibition shows many different kinds of innovations with which Pissarro experimented. The catalog has splendid reproductions of the works, and it is almost easier to see them because of the necessity of dim light in the galleries. However, there is no substitute for seeing the actual hand of the artist and his frequent hand-written notes on the edges.

Pissarro at the Luxembourg Museum in Paris, curated by Joachim Pissarro and Richard Brettell, focuses entirely on Pissarro’s works in Éragny-sur-Epte from 1884 until his death in 1903. Even though Pissarro went on painting tours to Paris, London, Rouen, Dieppe, and Le Havre during those years, he generally spent summers and some winters at his home in the tiny village of Éragny. The house, large enough for his growing family, came with a large garden, a barn (which he eventually turned into a studio), and meadows that stretched all the way to the beautiful little Epte river. Even so, the space is no bigger than that of a large suburban estate in the US.  With such limitations, it seems that subject matter would be restricted.  But the genius of Pissarro is that through composition, contrasts in weather and season, and amazing use of color, there is an astonishing variety of paintings. There are many fine examples of Pointillism, which Pissarro embraced around 1886. But later paintings show how he worked his way out of that technique and developed a new way of painting, even more intense than Impressionism. The catalog includes reproductions of the paintings and the many works on paper included in the exhibition.  Unfortunately, it is presented only in French.

Watch this blog for more detailed reviews of each of these fine exhibitions. Each one deserves its own space. Now I’m off to Copenhagen, Denmark to see yet another Pissarro exhibition!

Pissarro’s Early Abstract Painting

119 L'Hermitage at Pontoise 1867

L’Hermitage at Pontoise. 1867. Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne, Germany. PDRS 119.

In 1867, Pissarro had been back in Paris for twelve years, and several of his paintings had been accepted by the Salon. The group that would become known as the Impressionists were already acquainted and discussing their work.  Pissarro had been experimenting for several years with various innovative techniques and had produced many paintings that would have been seen as radical at that time. This is one of those paintings, produced seven years before the first Impressionist Exhibition.

In 1903, Pissarro explained how he saw only color, saying, “I can see only patches (of color). When I start off a painting, the first thing I strive to catch is its harmonic form [l’accord]. Between that sky and that ground and that water there is necessarily a link. It can only be a set of harmonies [relation d’accords], and this is the ultimate hardship with painting.”

In L’Hermitage at Pontoise (1867) [PDRS 119], Pissarro used color to create the shapes and forms on the canvas instead of drawing outlines. He painted those patches of color with no shadows or modeling, so they appear to be flat on the canvas. This is especially apparent in the houses, which appear to have no volume at all. The curving fields on the hillside look like flat trapezoidal color blocks. Increasing that sense of flatness, the colors at the top of the hill which should be farthest away, are just as intense as those in the foreground, causing the background to push forward. Pissarro created a slight sense of recession by overlapping the houses.  Only in the foreground is there any indication of perspective. Everything behind that—the houses and hillside—are as flat as theatrical scenery. He was creating a new way of painting—one which called attention to the paint on the canvas rather than the picture.

Only in the foreground is there any indication of perspective. Everything behind that—the houses and hillside—are as flat as theatrical scenery. He was creating a new way of painting—one which called attention to the paint on the canvas rather than the picture.

This is a very early painting that demonstrates how Pissarro was using radical elements in his paintings. These elements are familiar to us today and we call them “abstract.”

Reference for quote: Richard R. Brettell and Joachim Pissarro. The Impressionist and the City: Pissarro’s Series Paintings. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT. 1992, p xxxix.

Pissarro at the Marmottan–A Review

La Charcutiere 1883

A wonderful review of the Pissarro exhibition at the Marmottan appeared in Art Daily today.  Use the link below to see it.

Video from Pissarro exhibitions in Paris and Pontoise


Screen Shot 2017-04-13 at 10.23.07 AM

Here is a link to a wonderful video which features art from both the Luxembourg and Pontoise exhibitions.  Christophe Duvivier, director of the two museums in Pontoise, takes you inside the barn/studio of Pissarro at his home in Eragny.  He and Joachim Pissarro, the artist’s great-grandson talk (in French) about the exhibitions currently on view in Paris, Pontoise, and Copenhagen.



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.



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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