Entrance to the Harbour at Le Havre With the
West Breakwater, Sunlight, Morning
The Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, TN
Will this wonderful painting by Pissarro be among those in the new exhibition in Le Havre that opens April 29? The exhibition, part of the NORMANDY IMPRESSIONIST FESTIVAL, is called Pissarro and the Ports–Rouen, Dieppe, Le Havre and will be at the Musée d’Art moderne André Malraux – Le Havre from 27 April–29 September 2013. Of course, I will be in Le Havre to see if this intriguing painting will travel from Memphis Tennessee for the exhibition!
At the entrace to Le Havre harbor, the jetty and semaphore, the flag-bedecked structure on the right, are clearly visible. The semaphore was used to transmit messages to ships long before they approached the harbor. The large variety of flags may indicate weather changes or heavy traffic in the harbor.
Two sailboats on the left stay well out of the way as a small steamboat enters the harbor. On the actual canvas, we can see two dark images on the horizon (not easily visible in photographs), possibly other ships waiting their turn to dock. Could Pissarro have been using binoculars to look out to sea? They would have been useful for spotting details from his balcony window.
Pissarro’s strong asymmetrical composition accents the colorful semaphore. He placed it at the point of a sharp angle formed by the dark diagonal of the breakwater and the ocean’s horizon. Like many of the Le Havre series, this painting devotes most of the canvas to the sky. The bright sunlight creates long shadows on the dock and pushes away the thin gauzy clouds. Its reflection has tinted the calm sea a light translucent green, which fades into a thin lilac strip where the ocean meets the sky. Despite the obvious nautical activity on this busy morning, the sense of calmness is heightened by the lightness of the sky and sea.
This historic photo showing the same dock demonstrate’s Pissarro’s genius for making something beautiful out of a scene that could be thought mundane!
PISSARRO’S PLACES, the book, features a whole chapter on Le Havre and includes another painting by Pissarro of the docks, one of the two that Pissarro sold to the Musee Malraux in Le Havre. The book will be published in April. More details to come…..