It was a great pleasure to see the exhibition PISSARRO: FATHER OF IMPRESSIONISM at the Von der Heydt Museum in Wuppertal, Germany. This picture shows me with one of my favorite Pissarro painting, the one that is on the cover of my book PISSARRO’S PLACES.
The exhibition is a very large retrospective that thoroughly covers almost every part of Pissarro’s oeuvre with the exception of Pointillism, which is represented by one small painting. It included very early French paintings (none from Venezuela), a few from Pontoise and Louveciennes (some of Osny and Ennery I had never seen), Eragny and a good selection of Rouen, Dieppe, Le Havre, and Paris. I was especially delighted to see the early painting of Julie when she was a young girl from the Ashmolean, probably painted soon after Pissarro met her. He painted her portrait many times during their marriage. There were several flower still lifes and two self-portraits (1870 and 1903).
Some of the paintings are not ordinarily seen in the US. One of those is this elegant painting of a tree at Montfoucault, the Brittany home of Ludovic Piette where Pissarro and his family frequently visited. The obvious focal point is the big tree, but your eyes go to the golden ground created by rough brushstrokes of yellow, red, green, orange and coral. The heavy foliage on the big tree is nothing more than large blotches of dark green paint, reflected on the ground as a dark shadow. The odd sky is dark blue on the shadowed side of the tree and cloud filled on the other side. This isolation of this deserted field is tempered by tiny rooftops on a nearby hill.
Each group of Pissarros was paired with paintings by his contemporaries from the museum’s impressive holdings, including those of Corot, Courbet, Daubigny, Renoir, Monet, Sisley, Seurat, Daumier and many others. There were also paintings by Fritz Melbye, Pissarro’s friend in St. Thomas and Venezuela, and Ludovic Piette, his very close friend from Montfoucault.
There seemed to be twice as many works on paper (drawings, prints, etchings, watercolors) as paintings. Both the Musée Pissarro (Pontoise, France) and the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford, England) sent generous selections to show alongside the large collection in the museum. One especially interesting drawing shows a village behind a screen of trees, with the artist’s handwritten notes on colors to use in a future painting.
Seeing this comprehensive group of Pissarro’s paintings, it is easy to see that he was much more than an Iimpressionist. For more on the Wuppertal exhibition, please see my review in the New York Sun: http://www.nysun.com/arts/standing-tall-in-wuppertal/88979/