Archive for the 'Art' Category

PISSARRO’S 191st BIRTHDAY– 10 JULY

#pissarro #pissarro’sbirthday #Impressionism #Pontoise #10July #art #paintings #radicalpaintings #pointillism #Seurat #CamillePissarro #KunstmuseumBasel #Pissarroexhibition


Chestnut Trees in Osny, 1883, Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, Switzerland PDRS 715

July 10 is the 191st birthday of Camille Pissarro. Born in 1830 in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, he became a great artist—one whose early paintings were daring, radical and uncompromising. Even today, his paintings challenge what is currently believed about Modern art.

By the time he made this painting, Chestnut Trees in Osny, he had moved to Paris (1855), defied academic art, walked away from the Paris Salon (even though 11 of his paintings were accepted there), spearheaded the Impressionist movement and taken part in seven Impressionist exhibitions (he would be part of the eighth, as well), and was well on his way into what would become Pointillism.

Pissarro had lived with his family in Pontoise, just north of Paris from 1866-1868 and again from 1872-1882. But it had become too expensive, and they moved to the nearby village of Osny until he could find a more suitable place to settle. It was during this time in 1883 that he made this painting of a large old chestnut tree.

The composition may seem somewhat conventional for Pissarro, who often confounds the eye with diagonal lines and overlapping images. But it shows just how close Pissarro already was to the pointillist technique, which he would embrace two years later in 1885 when he met Seurat.  Even as a young painter in the Caribbean (1852-54), Pissarro was using tiny brushstrokes in many separate, unblended shades of yellow and green.

In this painting, the tiny specks of paint are most evident in the foreground where the shaded green and yellow background is dotted with dark green and white, portraying sunlight through unseen foliage at the top of the tree. A patch of full sunlight just beyond is portrayed by touches of yellow, white and pale green. The distant tree on the left shows no painted structure of trunk and limbs; it is composed entirely of dabs of paint, dark green interspersed with lighter green and yellow. The only full brushstrokes are the brown and dark grey ones that compose the trunk and branches of the big tree and the tiny strokes that make up the blue and grey roofs of the little white houses in the distance.

This wonderful painting is at the Kunstmuseum Basel, and perhaps it will be part of the exhibition opening there on September 4 entitled Camille Pissarro: The Studio of Modernism. Information about the exhibition says: “Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) ranks among the most distinguished artists of nineteenth-century France. To retrace the arc of his exceptionally diverse oeuvre is to witness the birth of modernism. And yet today’s histories of art often cast Pissarro in a subsidiary role.”  Perhaps this important exhibition will lay the groundwork for recognizing Pissarro as the innovator of Modern art that he was.  For more information on the exhibition: https://kunstmuseumbasel.ch/en/exhibitions/2021/camille-pissarro

 I am honored that my latest book, Abstract Pissarro, was included in a review by David Carrier for Hyperallergic https://hyperallergic.com/589404/the-end-of-art-history/

Abstract Pissarro is available online at Bookshop, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Visit my website for more information on Pissarro and my books: annsaulart.com.

PISSARRO: Springtime in the Orchard

#Pissarro #CamillePissarro #Pontoise #Louveciennes #Spring #Durand-Ruel #Impressionism #Orchards #CathedralSaint-Maclou #Franco-PrussianWar #NationalGalleryofArt #abstractpissarro #pissarrosplaces #annsaulart.com

Orchard in Bloom, 1872, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., PDRS 248

Camille Pissarro painted Orchard in Bloom in the spring of 1872 in the fields and orchards of Pontoise. It was a homecoming of sorts. Pissarro had lived in Pontoise before, from 1866 to 1868 when he moved to Louveciennes. Then in 1870, the Franco-Prussian war forced Pissarro and his family to flee, first to Brittany and then to London. When he returned to Louveciennes in 1871, he found that most of his paintings and drawings—a lifetime of work—had been destroyed. A few months later, in early April 1872, he moved his family back to Pontoise to begin anew.

This painting captures the promise of spring and new beginnings. The trees heavy with blossoms speak of fruit to come. The plowed earth, warm under the midday sun, provides a fertile bed for seeds that will yield the summer’s vegetables. This small orchard was probably close to Pissarro’s home at 16 rue Malebranche (now 18 rue Revert).1 The tall gray shadowy spire in the distance is probably the bell tower of the Cathédrale Saint-Maclau, which is situated on a high hill in the center of town where Pissarro lived.2

Pissarro places the focal point, the large straight flowering tree, well to the left of center, creating an asymmetrical composition. He divides the painting in the center with a path running straight back to the vanishing point on the horizon (this is a favorite device of the artist). On the left are the flowering trees; on the right, the fertile fields give way to the town. Then he ties the two together with a broken diagonal, from the bent tree which extends to distant foliage and points to the bell tower.

The warmth of the sun turns the earth reddish mauve, dark patches showing its rough furrows. The tree trunks, solid in shades of greenish grey, make dark purple shadows on the ground. The branches are beginning to leaf out in shades of dark forest to pale apple green. The bright blue of the sky is tinged with pale lavender near the horizon and falls to earth to accent the man’s pants and the woman’s apron.

This painting, made in April 1872, was promptly purchased by Paul Durand-Ruel in just three months, July 1872. It now lives at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., ensuring that the promise of spring is available to one and all.

1Pissarro: Critical Catalogue of Paints, Vol. I, p. 135 and Vol II, p. 202.

2An etching made of this Pissarro painting by Gustave Marie Greux in 1873 uses the title An Orchard in Louveciennes. However, the catalogue raisonne (Vol II, p. 202) places this painting after Pissarro’s return to Pontoise. Because of my many visits to houses where Pissarro lived in Pontoise, I identified the gray shadow in the distance as the Cathédrale bell tower. I verified the closeness of Pissarro’s house to the Cathédrale on the map. I have also visited the house where Pissarro lived in Louveciennes, which is on the outskirts of town and not near any bell tower that I recall. I welcome any comments on this difference of opinion.

 I am honored that my latest book, Abstract Pissarro, was included in a review by David Carrier for Hyperallergic https://hyperallergic.com/589404/the-end-of-art-history/

Abstract Pissarro is available online at Bookshop, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Visit my website for more information on Pissarro and my books: annsaulart.com.

Pissarro in Germany

#Pissarro #CamillePissarro #Museum Barberini #Potsdam #Germany #Ashmolean #Impressionism #Snowscene #Snow #Eragny #Sunset #AbstractPissarro

View of Bazincourt, Effect of Snow, Sunset, 1892, Museum Barberini, Potsdam, Germany, PDRS 969

The quiet stillness of the winter afternoon is almost palpable in this masterpiece by Pissarro. Nothing is moving except the sun and the colored shadows it casts on the snowy meadow. He painted this same view two other times that year; one on a frosty morning (PDRS 966) and another on an overcast day (PDRS 970). When the three were exhibited together in an exhibition of Pissarro’s works at Durand-Ruel’s gallery in March 1894, a critic for L’Art Français wrote: “Never has this painter of light been so felicitous; never has his gaze been so keen, and never has he rendered with such tenderness the sparkle of snow in the glow of early morning or the muted hue and majesty of the village steeple thrusting its purple silhouette into the gold of the setting sun.”1

Earlier that year in the summer, Pissarro painted the same view; but this time the meadow was green with trees in full leaf (PDRS 960). Both of these paintings are at the Museum Barberini in Potsdam, Germany. How wonderful it must be to see them together and compare the seasonal nuances.

View of Bazincourt, Sunset, 1892, Museum Barberini, Potsdam, Germany PDRS 960

The summer view helps us interpret the brushstrokes seen in the snowy painting. It shows a row of small trees in the right foreground, willows lining the tiny Epte River meandering through the meadow behind Pissarro’s house. This painting shows only one of the sharp angles, but the snowy view shows another sharp angle to the left of this one. Just how tiny that river is can be seen in this contemporary photo by the author taken near what was then the Pissarro property.

River Epte, photo by author

Pissarro would have made these paintings from his studio in the barn, seated at a back window facing the village of Bazincourt. A painting made several years earlier from his house shows the big barn on the left and at the back of the meadow, the line of small willows mark the presence of the Epte in front of the heavy bank of trees.

View from my Window, Éragny, 1886, Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford, UK, PDRS 825

The snowy painting is almost abstract with its squiggly lines and heavy brushstrokes, so thick they look like frosting. The expansive meadow in the foreground appears to be white, but is touched with pale violet shadows at the lower edge fading to even lighter lemon streaks nearer the trees. The sky fills the top of the canvas with shadings in reverse colors, more light lemon tinged with even lighter violet. The sun itself is cold, a brittle lemon yellow—not at all the golden sun most artists paint.  In the middle are leafless trees, surreal in appearance, no more than grey-green brushstrokes. The little willows, so verdant in the summer painting, are tiny marks, unidentifiable in this setting. The steeple is a sharp little point above a tiny patch of crimson which must be the church. Another bit of crimson adorns a cottage while random patches of soft pink pull the gaze around the painting.

At first glance, the eye sees only the beauty of the snowy scene. But a closer, more intimate look reveals the delicate colors and elegant brushstrokes—a rich reward for spending a few moments in the company of Pissarro.

1Pissarro: Critical Catalogue of Paintings, Pissarro and Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, 2005, Vol. III, p. 632.

I am honored that my latest book, Abstract Pissarro, was included in a review by David Carrier for Hyperallergic https://hyperallergic.com/589404/the-end-of-art-history/

Abstract Pissarro is available online at Bookshop, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

PISSARRO and Impressionist Painting in Switzerland

#KunstmuseumBasel #Pissarro #Impressionism #Pontoise #l’Hermitage #abstract #landscape #composition #abstractpissarro

A View of l’Hermitage, Pontoise, 1878, Kunstmuseum Basel, gift from some art lovers, acquired in 1912 with a contribution from the Basel government Inv. 871, PDRS 553

Pissarro’s painting, A View of l’Hermitage, Pontoise, was the first Impressionist painting in a museum collection in Switzerland, according to the website of the Kunstmuseum Basel.[1] When it appeared in an exhibition on French Impressionism in the Kunsthalle Basel in 1912, a group of artists and art lovers arranged for its acquisition and placement in the Basel Public Art Collection. The museum writes: “It was not only the first Impressionist painting to be included in the collection of the Kunstmuseum Basel, but also the first picture of this art movement in Switzerland.”

This lovely painting depicts an area that Pissarro knew well. He must have enjoyed this particular scene; he had painted it twice before in 1874 (A Corner of l’Hermitage, Pontoise, PDRS 356) and again in 1875 (View of the Côte des Gratte-Coqs, Pontoise, PDRS 407).[2] The scene is familiar, and the eye tends to see what it expects—plowed earth in the left corner, a woman tending the leafy green vegetables, a cluster of neat village houses behind a scraggly dead tree pointing to fields on the hillside. A lovely, uncomplicated landscape, it seems.

And yet, a closer look reveals Pissarro’s determination to do things differently. The patch of dirt in the left corner is part of a circle and the first of several concentric bands that radiate all the way up the hill and into the sky. The second band marked by the woman is bright green; the third dull green one contains the standing man. Behind him, the fourth band is formed by roofs of sheds at the foot of the scraggly tree, and the crest of the hill on the horizon forms the fifth band. Even the full branch of the large tree follows the curve and points to the white clouds that continue the arch in the sky. Only the straight line of houses in the center breaks the pattern.

There’s more. A closer look reveals that the houses have no volume; they are flat as signboards. Only as the line moves to the left and one house overlaps another is there any suggestion of perspective. There are no shadows to indicate depth. There is no attempt at realism; broad visible brushstrokes form the roofs and sides of the houses as well as the roofs of the sheds, which look like flat color blocks. The workers are formed with few brushstrokes, and though the man’s face is visible, there are no features. Even the lush summer foliage of the tree isn’t real; it is simply a construction of diagonal hatch marks.

This looks like a typical Impressionist landscape because that is what the eye expects to see. In fact, it is a demonstration of composition and brushstrokes that eight decades later would become part of the abstract painter’s lexicon. Its beauty is certainly there to be enjoyed, but how much richer and more interesting it becomes when Pissarro’s radical techniques are recognized.

Please share your comments with me at: pissarrolist@gmail.com

I am honored that my latest book, Abstract Pissarro, was included in a review by David Carrier for Hyperallergic https://hyperallergic.com/589404/the-end-of-art-history/

Abstract Pissarro is available online at Bookshop, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.


[1] https://kunstmuseumbasel.ch/en/kunstmuseum-basel

[2] Pissarro:Critical Catalogue of Paintings, (2005) Vol. II, p. 379.

Pissarro at Home in Paris


Jeanne Pissarro, Called Cocotte, Reading, 1899, PDRS 1297, Private collection.

Pissarro and his family spent the winter of 1899 in Paris on the rue de Rivoli, where he painted fourteen views of the Tuileries from his third floor window.1 At that time, he painted several still lifes of flowers and a few interiors featuring his 18-year-old daughter including this one, Jeanne Pissarro, Called Cocotte, Reading (1899) [PDRS 1297].

Jeanne is pictured in the rue de Rivoli apartment on a settee covered with a large red throw. She is almost in the center of the canvas, the painting seems somewhat unbalanced: the settee and a rug fill the left side; the space on the right is empty except for a chair positioned behind the sofa.  The right side of the canvas features the edge of a doorway allowing a glimpse into the room beyond.

This colorful painting is a plethora of patterns layered one on the other. Most dominant are the patterns of the red coverlet and the flowered rug. The chair on the right is covered in fabric of red and white, and in the room beyond is another colorful rug. Behind the settee, the walls are covered in textures of blue, grey, and pink, layered over with paintings in every possible space. Even the wooden floor is laid in a herringbone pattern. The overlaying of intense patterns in bright colors suggest what Henri Matisse would do a few years later in many of his paintings.

It is entirely possible that Matisse may have seen this painting of Jeanne. Hilary Spurling wrote that Matisse visited Pissarro regularly, “conducting an increasingly companionable dialogue with the older artist,”2 during this expedition and the following winter of 1899-1900 when Pissarro returned to rue de Rivoli for another series of the Tuileries.3

Henri Matisse, Interior with a Young Girl (Girl Reading), 1906, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Perhaps Matisse recalled this picture a few years later when he made a painting of his own daughter Marguerite, Interior with a Young Girl (Girl Reading) (1906). Behind the girl are vases of flowers and brightly tinted walls layered with paintings. The table, covered with blue and red figures seems to tilt forward.  

1 Pissarro and Durand=Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro: Catalogue Critique Des Peintures, 1:287-90.

2 Spurling, The Unknown Matisse, 178.

3 Ibid., 190.

I am honored that my latest book, Abstract Pissarro, was included in a review by David Carrier for Hyperallergic https://hyperallergic.com/589404/the-end-of-art-history/

Abstract Pissarro is available online at Bookshop, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Pissarro in Rouen

Rue de l’Epicerie in Rouen, Effect of Sunlight, 1898, Metropolitan Museum of Art, PDRS 1221

On his trip to Rouen in 1898, Pissarro made three paintings of the rue de l’Épicerie, one of Rouen’s oldest streets lined on each side by sixteenth-century gabled houses. A large open-air market on Fridays had been held continuously in that place since the thirteenth century. This painting shows the street at midmorning, bustling with shoppers and vendors. Though the towers of the Cathedral Notre-Dame appear at the top, little is seen of the south doorway which melds into the façade of nearby buildings. The center of the painting is full of long vertical brushstrokes heavy with paint which ignore any detail. Smaller buildings on either side are composed of flat blocks of paint stacked haphazardly in almost cubist fashion. The people filling the street are mere brushstrokes, clothed in various colors. While there is no clear focal point, the sheer verticality of the church towers, multi-storied buildings and movement of people in the street push the eye up and down again. Another painting of the same scene (not shown here) portrays a rainy morning with few people on the street.

Rue de l’Epicerie in Rouen, Late Afternoon, 1898. Private collection. PDRS 1223

Perhaps the most dramatic of the three paintings is Rue de l’Épicerie in Rouen, Late Afternoon (1898) showing deep shadows cast by the setting sun. With the few pedestrians relegated to the sidelines, Pissarro focused on the cobblestone street in the foreground, flattened buildings on each side providing framework. The doorway of the cathedral, a major focal point for other artists, is reduced to simple brushstrokes, suggesting the Gothic arches Pissarro so admired. Rushing from its portals are a series of color blocks on the cobblestones filling the foreground. The largest one, slabs of paint ranging from dark blue to gray, is nearly rectangular, extending from the cathedral door to the lower edge. A large triangle of red, dark orange, and tawny beige fills the lower-left corner. A similar segment lies to the right of the blue section. Slicing across the right corner is a small, bright-yellow triangle, shading into orange. The whole geometric effect is one of primary color blocks, giving importance to blue, bordered by reds, and accented by a touch of yellow— obviously the abstract pattern Pissarro wanted to highlight.

Chapelle de la Fierte de St. Romain, Rouen, photo by author, c. 2010

While making these three paintings, Pissarro may have stood on the steps of the Chapelle de la Fierte de St. Romain, a small elevated chapel built in 1542. According to legend, St. Romain saved Rouen from a monster with the help of a criminal. Beginning in 1210 on Ascension Day, the cathedral was allowed to release a prisoner who then carried the saint’s relics up to the chapel and raised them three times before the crowd of people. The practice ended in 1790 during the Revolution.

Rue de l’Epicerie, photo by author c. 2010

During World War II, many of the historic buildings on the street were destroyed. Miraculously, the historic chapel remained safe though the building behind it was damaged heavily. During the rebuilding process, the old marketplace became a public parking area and modern buildings now line the ancient street leading to the cathedral. Though much has changed, it is still possible to experience the general contour of the motif that Pissarro painted.

I am honored that my latest book, Abstract Pissarro, was included in a review by David Carrier for Hyperallergic https://hyperallergic.com/589404/the-end-of-art-history/

Abstract Pissarro is available online at Bookshop, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Richard R. Brettell 1949-2020

#CamillePissarro #Pissarro #RichardBrettell #Brettell #PissarrosPeople #Impressionism #Pontoise #Paris #Rouen #London #LeHavre #ArtHistory #Art

Screen Shot 2020-07-26 at 8.58.59 AM

Richard R. Brettell Photo: UTDallas

Richard Brettell’s many achievements in the world of art history and museums are being remembered and celebrated today. Perhaps his greatest gift is the tremendous body of knowledge he left us about the life and work of Camille Pissarro. He began his career with Pissarro and his exploration of the artist’s life and work continued throughout his life.

His dissertation became a book on Pissarro’s early life in Pontoise with transformative research that continues to inform investigative study today. His work on Pissarro includes an exhibition on Pissarro’s city paintings of Paris, Rouen, London, Dieppe and Le Havre. His exploration of Pissarro’s figure paintings in the exhibition Pissarro’s People revealed the artist’s personal values as much as his distinctive technique. More recently in Paris, his exhibition of Pissarro’s paintings at Éragny-sur-Epte displayed an amazing variety of motifs and artistic techniques. These examples are just a few of his body of work on Pissarro. In many of his books and exhibitions, he collaborated with Joachim Pissarro, great grandson of the artist, a reflection of their long friendship.

It is for this immeasurable gift of knowledge on Pissarro that I pay tribute to Richard Brettell and remember him today.  Thank you, Rick.

PISSARRO’ S BIRTHDAY – JULY 10

#CamillePissarro #Pissarro #Radicalart #Birthday #July10 #Pontoise #ParisSalon #BrushstrokesVisible #Cubism #Composition #Perspective #ModernArt #Impressionism #Innovations #2030Pissarro #AbstractPissarro #PissarrosPlaces

603 Houses at l'Hermitage 1879

Houses at l’Hermitage, Pontoise, 1879, Private collection PDRS 603

July 10th is the 190th anniversary of the birth of Camille Pissarro. The year 2030, just ten years from now, will be his 200th birthday. By then, perhaps there will be a fuller recognition of his leadership in the creation of Modern art and acknowledgement that he was the first to use many of its artistic innovations.

The painting above, Houses at l’Hermitage, Pontoise (1879), is a superb example of many of those innovations. At first glance, it appears to be just a lovely landscape of pastel-colored houses against a peaceful hillside, like those of many other artists.  But it is so much more! This one virtually demands that you look  closely at the canvas itself with the rough brushstrokes, flatness, and lack of perspective that sets it apart as a radical work of art.

By 1879, landscapes were deemed more acceptable by the Paris Salon as long as they portrayed picturesque vistas like grassy areas, flowers and distant hills. Pissarro’s scene does the exact opposite! It features plowed fields—just dirt—in the foreground. Instead of proper buildings with volume and shadows, Pissarro painted his little cluster of houses with no dimension, perfectly flat on the canvas with heavy brushstrokes that are easily visible. The way he stacks the houses on top of each other suggests Cubism.

Most artists of this period painted landscapes that portrayed distant views with less detail and lighter colors. Pissarro contradicts that practice, painting trees and cultivated fields at the top of the distant hill with rough crisscrossed brushstrokes in colors as vivid as those in the large tree in the foreground. This has the effect of pulling the hillside forward, flattening the entire painting. The fact that Pissarro signed and dated the painting indicates that he considered it to be finished. Everything he did was done with intent and purpose.

These tactics were not new to Pissarro in 1879. He was already using these techniques in the late 1850s when he moved to France to begin his artistic career. As he made friends with other younger artists, he shared his secrets and Impressionism was born! Too often these radical ideas are attributed to other artists, but careful research into Pissarro’s early paintings reveal that he was the first to intentionally use these techniques.

2030 tag

 

 

 

 

 

 

PISSARRO at Musée d’Orsay

#Pissarro #CamillePissarro #Museed’Orsay #Moret #GeorgesPissarro #Sisley #Impressionism #abstract #abstractpissarro #pissarrosplaces #Loingriver #Loingcanal #art #1899 #1902 #Bridgeandprintingplant

1434 The Loing Canal, Moret 1902

The Loing Canal, Moret, 1902, Musée d’Orsay, PDRS 1434

Pissarro painted this lovely summer scene during a visit to Moret in 1902. It was the third time he visited his son Georges in the small village a little more than 50 miles south of Paris. His first visit was in November 1899 when Georges settled there. His son wrote him: “You know, if you want to come to Moret to do some studies, there’s plenty of room, it’s a big house. . . .there’s a little raised garden on a rampart right on the edge of the river, with a lovely view of poplar trees reflected in the Loing. Without even leaving the garden we’re smack in the midst of wonderful motifs.” * While he made no paintings during that first visit, he returned in the spring of 1901 and made seven paintings.

The following year from mid-May to mid-June, Pissarro went back to Moret for a visit with Georges and made twelve paintings. For much of that visit, the weather according to Pissarro was “wretched,” but he made three interiors featuring people of the village. He took full advantage of good weather during the latter part of his visit, finishing nine landscapes, including this one. For this painting, he set his easel beside a canal near the Loing river built to facilitate barge traffic. This painting recalls the Impressionist tradition which Pissarro helped to establish in the early 1870s with its picturesque motif. The large trees on the left frame the picture with their branches creating reflections in the water. It almost seems like a remembrance of paintings by Alfred Sisley, the Impressionist painter who made his home in Moret for more than two decades and painted so many of its lovely views before his death in 1899.

1432 The Bridge and the Printing Plant, Moret 1902

The Bridge and the Printing Plant, Moret, 1902, Private collection, PDRS 1432

While Pissarro may have gone back to his Impressionist roots for that painting, he could not resist applying his abstract vision on others. The second painting, The Bridge and the Printing Plant, Moret, displays his advanced techniques. The buildings are simply blocks of color, totally flat with no apparent volume. The clouds are mere stabs of the paintbrush loaded with blue-grey or white paint. The trees are constructed of tiny diagonal strips in various shades of green. Instead of typical reflections, rough white brushstrokes streak across the water. Separating the white strokes is a narrow strip of yellow, there for no apparent reason other than that it is complementary to the lavender hue of the water. While the first painting of the canal is beautiful and a reminder of lovely summer days, this one is much more interesting than the one in the Orsay—and typical of Pissarro at his best in near abstract expression.

*Pissarro: Critical Catalogue (Joachim Pissarro and Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, 2005)

ABSTRACT PISSARRO and PISSARRO’S PLACES,

books on Pissarro’s paintings, are available online

at Bookshop.org, AbeBooks,

Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.

 

 

PISSARRO at the Hermitage

#Pissarro #CamillePissarro #Hermitage #StateHermitageMuseum #StPetersburg #BoulevardMontmartre #Frenchart #Impressionism #ParisSalon #Grandjean #ChampsElysees #BeauxArts #Paris #DurandRuel #abstract #academicart #Haussmann #abstractpissarro #pissarrosplaces

1165 Blvd. Montmartre 2

Boulevard Montmartre, Afternoon, 1897, The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia, PDRS 1165

One of the world’s great museums, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia is home to an extensive collection of French art.  It is odd, therefore, that they only have two paintings by Camille Pissarro. One of those, Place du Théâtre-Français, the Omnibuses, Spring, Sunlight (1898) [PDRS 1209], was the subject of the previous post.

The other one, Boulevard Montmartre, Afternoon (1897) [PDRS 1165], was made the previous year when Pissarro stayed at the Grand Hôtel de Russie from February 8 to April 25, 1897. His dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, bought 12 of the 16 paintings he made during that time, including this one.

He described the view from his window: “I can see down the whole length of the boulevards clear to the porte Saint-Denis, or nearly, at any rate all the way to the boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle.”* There is nothing of importance in the view—no great monument or imposing building. All of the new Haussmann apartments look the same. The drama is in Pissarro’s depiction of activity—omnibuses and carriages vying for space on the busy street, pedestrians crowding the sidewalks. The viewer is swept up and pulled along into the dense congestion. Everything on the sidelines becomes virtually abstract.

Pissarro’s scenes of Paris streets are so familiar that it is easy to forget how radical they were at the time—the loose brushstrokes capturing a horse in two quick strokes, mere dots of color for windows, white circular motions suggesting clouds.

Another Hermitage painting of a Paris street demonstrates the vast difference in Pissarro’s style and what art viewers of that day were accustomed to seeing. Edmond Grandjean (1844-1908) made his painting, View of the Champs-Elysées from the Place de l’Etoile, in 1878. Born in Paris, Grandjean studied at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. His paintings were exhibited frequently at the Paris Salon from 1865-1906.

Grandjean, Edmond 1878

Edmond Grandjean, View of the Champs-Élysées from the Place de l’Etoile in Paris, 1878

This painting is an excellent example of what Salon paintings looked like—and exactly what Pissarro was fighting against.  It is almost photographic in its accuracy. Instead of colored blobs, the windows look as if they were carefully measured and squared. Grandjean was known for his depiction of horses, and even though they are small, the musculature in these horses is precise. Even the spokes of the wheels on carriages are delineated. The tiny people on the omnibuses are carefully modeled and costumed. This amount of details makes the painting look static, frozen in time. The book French Art Treasures at the Hermitage (Albert Kostenevich) says that this painting is “reminiscent of an illustration from a fashion journal transposed to a panorama: such pictures were extremely popular in the second half of the nineteenth century.” Compared to the Pissarro painting, this one looks like a picture on an old-fashioned tin candy box, with none of the life and vitality of the Pissarro. No wonder Pissarro’s paintings continue to fascinate and intrigue viewers after all these years.

*Pissarro: Critical Catalogue (2005)

ABSTRACT PISSARRO and PISSARRO’S PLACES,

books on Pissarro’s paintings, are available online

at Bookshop.org, AbeBooks,

Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.

 


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