Archive for June, 2017

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.

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Paris Loves Pissarro — 1 of 3

 

Self-Portrait

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.

Louveciennes

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!

 



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