PISSARRO AND THE STILL LIFE

Apples and Pears in a Circular Basket, 1872 Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ  PDR 269

Apples and Pears in a Circular Basket, 1872
Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ PDR 269

This gorgeous painting is one of those featured in the exhibition, “Discovering the Impressionists,” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Durand-Ruel, the art dealer bought it from Pissarro the same year it was painted.  This was just one year after Pissarro and Durand-Ruel both returned to France from London where they went to escape the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.

Pissarro must have painted two still lives at about the same time because they both feature the pink striped wallpaper and the table with a white cloth.  The other one, a study of apples and glazed earthenware, appears to be very conventional and realistic in that the plate, vase and wine glass seem to be sitting very solidly on the table with normal shadows.  However, this one is almost radical in its composition.

The basket is tilted forward so much that it seems to be levitating.  The back rim is much higher than it would be if the basket were sitting flat on the table.  The shadow to the left of the basket reinforces the illusion, since in that shadowed space, we can almost see under the basket. The deep creases in the tablecloth lead our eyes to the basket, accenting its odd placement.

This is far from a routine still life, it is totally radical.  And this is what Pissarro was doing a full two years before the First Impressionist Exhibition.

See it in the Durand-Ruel exhibition at PMA until September 13.

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