Archive for April, 2015

PISSARRO LOOKS BACK AT PONTOISE

Landscape at Pontoise, c. 1879 Private collection PDR600

Landscape at Pontoise, c. 1879
Private collection PDR 600

Several wonderful Pissarro paintings are available in the Spring sales of Impressionist paintings in New York City this year. This one, “Landscape at Pontoise,” will be offered in the Day Sale on May 15, 2015 at Christie’s. It will be especially exciting to see it in person since the Pissarro catalogue raisonné (2005) contains only a black-and-white photograph. The provenance provided by Christie’s does not list any exhibitions, so it probably has not been on view for a long time.

It is a vertical painting, generally considered an unusual choice for a landscape. At that time, most artists used horizontal canvases that would give them plenty of room on each side of their focal point. This painting is also tiny, only 16 1/8 x 13 inches, a little treasure.

Pissarro uses more than half the canvas for a thick screen of tall poplar trees which prevents us from seeing the village of Pontoise in the distance. All we get is a narrow space through which we see the steeple of the church of Saint-Maclou, now a cathedral, and a couple of red roofs. Even in this close-up, the church steeple is indistinct and though our eyes are drawn to it, it is obviously not a the most important element (focal point) in the painting.

steeple detail

In the foreground, we see a woman bending over and a man in the distance. As we know, many of Pissarro’s paintings have no particular focal point–no large or important element that dominates the view. In this one, both the woman and man are mere sketches rendered in a few brushstrokes and hardly large enough to be important.

woman detail

Though the trees dominate the painting, they have no real importance–all they do is prevent us from seeing what is beyond. Pissarro developed this device about ten years earlier in his 1869 painting, “The Village Screened by Trees.” According to the catalogue raisonné, that was the first time that he used this screening device.

The Village Screened by Trees  c. 1869 Private collection PDR 134

The Village Screened by Trees c. 1869
Private collection PDR 134

We see trees used in similar ways in the paintings of Corot, with whom Pissarro had painted as a young man. But Corot’s paintings always had a focal point, and his trees were never as thick and as dominant as those in Pissarro’s screens.  Pissarro continued to use this compositional device throughout his career. Because this painting has no real focal point, we are forced to look at the painting literally as paint on canvas and enjoy the energy and movement of Pissarro’s brushstrokes.

The Lot Notes provided by Christie’s for this painting say, “Paysage à Pontoise was painted during a period when Pissarro was increasingly using small, stabbing brushstrokes of color to render his images, prefiguring Neo-Impressionism. … Pissarro has paid particular attention to enriching the painted surface with a stippling effect on the trees and the overgrown field.”

trees detail

Pissarro is painting in a way that was still very new for that time. He made this painting in 1879, the year of the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition. The art establishment of that time continued to favor paintings in which brushstrokes were invisible and the surface of the painting was smooth.  Pissarro is, once again, defying the accepted practice. Seen up close, it looks like he was applying the paint with wild abandonment–stabs of blue and white in the sky and green and dark green for the trees. A faint touch of light red among the green gives it even more brilliance.

This view of Pontoise from the nearby village of Ennery was lovely on a sunny day, but Pissarro was not interested in giving us a photographic reproduction. If all we see is the location, then we have missed the point. Pissarro used this view to provide an engaging design for putting paint on canvas.

PISSARRO AND SPRINGTIME IN PONTOISE

Factor on the Banks of the Oise 1873 Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown (MA) PDR 300

Factory on the Banks of the Oise 1873
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown (MA) PDR 300

This painting is one of Pissarro’s most famous and well-loved paintings. Fortunately, it lives at the wonderful Clark Art Institute and can be seen by the public. If you go to Paris, take the train to Pontoise and visit the Musée Pissarro. The following blog is taken from my book PISSARRO’S PLACES (pissarrosplaces.com).

One warm spring day, Pissarro took his easel to the banks of the Oise river and made a painting that is archetypical of the Impressionist style: the lavish portrayal of sunlight, the consciousness of the changing weather as gray clouds fill the intense blue sky, the presence of modernity in the new factories lining the banks of the Oise River; and the immediacy of the scene that bespeaks en plein air painting.

The painting itself has a classic composition divided almost equally between the sky and the earth, with the river dwindling away on the right side. The water, still as a mirror, reflects the smokestacks and buildings on the other side and connects them with the freshness of the spring flowers in the right foreground. The factory, a distillery, had just been completed in 1872.

One of the old factories still standing on the banks of the Oise.

One of the old factories still standing on the banks of the Oise.

 

 

PISSARRO PAINTING LOOTED BY THE NAZIS TO BE RETURNED TO RIGHTFUL OWNERS

The Louvre, Morning, 1902, PDR 1418

The Louvre, Morning, 1902, PDR 1418

THIS STORY IS REPRINTED FROM A REPORT ON FRANCE 24, APRIL 1, 2015.

The painting shown above is taken from a news story at https://news.artnet.com/in-brief/nazi-looted-pissarro-discovered-in-gurlitt-trove-gifted-to-bern-188836, and matches information in the Pissarro Catalogue Raisonne (2005) for PDR 1418.

BERLIN (AFP) – Germany said Wednesday experts had established a Camille Pissarro painting from the Cornelius Gurlitt art trove was looted by the Nazis and should be returned to the heirs of its rightful owners.

The oil painting from 1902 entitled “La Seine vue du Pont-Neuf, au fond le Louvre” (The Seine seen from the Pont Neuf) is “absolutely certain” to have been looted by Hitler’s regime, the German culture ministry said.

“For the restitution, we are already in contact with the heiress of the former owner,” Culture Minister Monika Gruetters said in a statement, without identifying the family.

Gurlitt, who died in May aged 81, had hoarded more than 1,000 paintings, drawings and sketches, including masterpieces by the likes of Picasso and Chagall, in his Munich flat for decades.

The Pissarro piece was discovered among more works uncovered at his Salzburg, Austria home.

The artworks were acquired by his powerful father Hildebrand Gurlitt who was tasked by the Nazis with selling artwork stolen from Jewish families in the 1930s and 1940s.

Research by a German government-appointed task force has already established that the artworks “Seated Woman” by Henri Matisse and “Two Riders on the Beach”, painted by Max Liebermann, should be returned to the heirs of their rightful owners.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Bern, Switzerland, agreed in November to accept the controversial art trove left behind by Cornelius Gurlitt.


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