Posts Tagged 'Dieppe'

Camille Pissarro’s Birthday – July 10, 1830

The world thinks of Camille Pissarro as an Impressionist.  And indeed, Cezanne called him “The First Impressionist.”  But long before that, Pissarro was a highly skilled artist. This painting, which is the first listed in the catalogue raisonne (Pissarro-Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, 2005), is dated 1852-54 and was painted in Venezuela. [Earlier works may have been destroyed when Pissarro’s house was occupied by enemy troops during the Franco-Prussian War, 1870]  It clearly demonstrates his knowledge of perspective, figure painting and the effect of brilliant sunlight.

1 plaza mayor

Market Scene on the Plaza Mayor, Caracas 1852-54 PDR 1 Presidential residence, La Casona, Caracas

Two decades later Pissarro was at the forefront of the Impressionist movement, creating innovative ways of painting. This painting from 1873 was shown at the first Impressionist exhibition. While it uses the effect of sunlight and the clear colors of Impressionism, it is so much more. We barely see the trees and bushes and man because our eyes are captured by the multitudes of lines and angles and the play of color dividing one section from the other. Specifically, we can’t help seeing the giant X created by lines from the treetop on the left through the bushes at center and continuing along the top of the dark orange section. It is crossed by a line from the tree on the right though the center bush and down the other side of the dark orange section. We do not see this as just a reproduction of early morning frost. We see how paint is used on canvass, the contrast of light blue and orange in a geometric grid. This painting may be called Impressionist, but it is no less than an abstract painting.

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Hoar-Frost at Ennery 1873 Musée d’Orsay PDRS 285

At the age of 56, Pissarro was working in the Pointilist style and made this painting near his home in Éragny. The melange of dots placed closely together produce the different colors, but that is not what draws your attention.  The sharp geometric structure create color blocks of yellow and green and blue. It is almost irrelevant that a tiny steam engine is pulling a train into our vision. The shapes look like flat puzzle pieces that fit snugly together. To make sure our eyes stay on the color blocks, Pissarro paints in a neutral cloudy sky above with nothing to distract us from the totally abstract design beneath.

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The Dieppe Railway 1886 Philadelphia Museum of Art PDRS 828

In his later years, Pissarro often painted from windows in order to protect his eye which frequently became infected. He spent winters in Paris in various locations. In 1901, he was living at Place Dauphine on the Île de la Citė where he had a splendid view of the Pont -Neuf leading over to the Samaritaine, the large department store on the Right Bank.  The painting is warm and lush with golden sunlight bathing the buildings and reflections in the turquoise water.

Pont-Neuf-1351

The Pont-Neuf, Afternoon, Sunlight (First Series) 1901 Philadelphia Museum of Art PDRS 1351

The buildings, which should suggest substance and mass, look instead like flat theatrical sets. The road, a flowing mass teeming with carriages and pedestrians, is only contained by the side of the bridge with its familiar circular spaces glistening bright white creating a strong diagonal line from the bottom of the canvas to center right. While we can’t see the other side of the bridge, we do see another glistening white horizontal block which almost meets the diagonal of the bridge, drawing our eyes to the Samaritaine. When we get there, however, there is almost nothing to see, a rather shadowy building, less distinct than the others, and not even flying the flags that were customary over Samaritaine.  Just to balance the strong acute angle and give it stability, Pissarro uses the quai across the river to complete the horizontal. However, he diminishes its importance by making it the same color as the building above it and draws our attention to the reflections in the breathtakingly beautiful turquoise water, which cools down all of the buttery yellow blocks and white hot diagonals.

This painting is clearly a scene we recognize, and it still looks the same today (though some of the Samaritaine buildings were reconfigured under a single facade many years ago). Though this picture is clearly representational, something easily recognized, the power of the abstract geometric elements captures our attention. 

Perhaps as we acknowledge Pissarro as the First Impressionist, we should begin to acknowledge the importance of abstract elements in his paintings. Dana Gordon, a New York City artist, said it first and best:

Pissarro traditionally was known as a great landscapist, a translator of nature into art. Pissarro showed that painting’s basic qualities — colors, brushstrokes, materiality, lines, shapes, composition—were meaningful in their own right, and transformed paint into purely visual poetry. He was, in essence, the first abstract artist.

SO WHERE’S THE TRAIN?

The Dieppe Railway 1886 PDR 828 Philadelphia Museum of Art Philadelphia, PA

The Dieppe Railway
1886 PDR 828
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philadelphia, PA

Pissarro painted The Dieppe Railway in 1886, following the Eighth Impressionist Exhibition in which he showed his Pointillist works. You have to look closely to even see the train, just to left of the canvas center. The train itself is not important—it is simply there as a reference point in a composition of geometric shapes and color blocks. In many of his paintings, Pissarro used sketchy trees and figures to make what are essentially abstract compositions look more like familiar scenes.

Some 25 years later (around 1911), Pablo Picasso who created Cubism, talked about including familiar objects in his abstract paintings, calling them “attributes,” to characterize the subject matter. He said, “The attributes were the few points of reference designed to bring one back to visual reality, recognizable to anyone.”*

While the actual location of this painting is not important, I believe this scene was near the Éragny railroad station just across the highway from his home. This current photograph shows the railroad track, the contours of the fields, and the same blue hills in the distance.

Eragny train7

We usually expect a painting to show something important or at least something pretty, but there is not much distinctive about this particular space. Rather than a typical subject, Pissarro chose these oddly-shaped color fields.

In the large foreground, he created a golden field with points of color, ranging from light yellow to gold, coral to red, and a bit of light green. To the right is an odd shape composed of green and dark blue spots, flecked with a little gold. It is obviously a shadow but we do not know its origin (possibly the old train station that is no longer there but appears in historic postcards). The green fields in the distance, made of light and dark green dots, are edged with golden fields of the same intensity as the foreground. Even the distant hills are blue dots of different shades mixed with ivory flecks. The cloudy sky absorbs the ivory points and mixes them with dots of yellow and coral. Above the clouds, light blue dots fill the top of the canvas with blue.

Pissarro must have made this painting as a showcase for Pointillism and fields of color. The composition and use of paint are far more important than the picture of the train. When we look at this painting today, we can say it is virtually abstract—Pissarro couldn’t do that.  In 1886, the word abstract had not yet been used in relation to art.

*Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection (2013) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 139

PISSARRO’S PLACES ARE IN NORMANDY THIS SUMMER!!

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                   OF COURSE, you say.  Everyone knows that Pissarro painted in Rouen, Le Havre, and Dieppe, all of them in the heart of Normandy!!  But this is 2013 and there’s more! 

PISSARRO’S PLACES has just been chosen to be part of the

Normandie Impressionniste Festival 2013!

Last week the Scientific Committee of the Festival reviewed material from the book PISSARRO’S PLACES and gave it a place among a few other publications officially endorsed by the Festival!  They will soon place the book on their website on their Publications page. PISSARRO’S PLACES is, in fact, the only English-language book to be included.

The first Normandie Impressionniste Festival was held in 2010, and it took France by storm, drawing locals and tourists alike to a summer full of artistic events, including a superb art exhibition at the Musée des Beaux Arts in Rouen.

The 2013 Festival promises to surpass the last one, with four superb art exhibitions in museums at Rouen, Caen, Giverny, and Le Havre. PISSARRO’S PLACES fits  in with all the exhibitions, especially with the one at Musée Malraux in Le Havre, Pissarro and the Ports. In fact, a whole chapter of the book PISSARRO’S PLACES is devoted to the city of Le Havre and Pissarro’s experiences painting their harbors.

The Normandie Impressionniste Festival has an extraordinary website in French, English and a host of other languages that describes all the events that run from late April through September.  Check it out:  http://www.normandie-impressionniste.eu/

PISSARRO’S PLACES will be published in April.

Watch for news of a website and a book launch promotion.

PISSARRO IN SPAIN — THIS SUMMER–IT’S PISSARRO!

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The Orchard at Éragny, 1896, Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on deposit at Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, PDR 1134

AN EXTRAORDINARY EXHIBITION IS OPENING IN JUNE IN MADRID!!  Perhaps the gorgeous painting shown above will be among those in the exhibition at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.

Here’s the full story from their superb English website (http://www.museothyssen.org/en/thyssen/home)

Pissarro

From 04 June to 15 September 2013

In the summer of 2013 the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza will be presenting the first monographic exhibition in Spain on the Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro (1830-1903). A key figure within Impressionism (he wrote the movement’s foundational letter and was the only one of its artists to take part in all eight Impressionist exhibitions from 1874 to 1886), Pissarro was nonetheless eclipsed by the enormous popularity of his friends and colleagues, in particular Claude Monet. The exhibition includes more than 70 works with the aim of restoring Pissarro’s reputation and presenting him as one of the great pioneers of modern art. Landscape, the genre that prevailed in his output, will be the principal focus of this exhibition, which offers a chronologically structured tour of the places where the artist lived and painted: Louveciennes, Pontoise and Éragny, as well as cities such as Paris, London, Rouen, Dieppe and Le Havre. While Pissarro is traditionally associated with the rural world, to which he devoted more than three decades of his career, at the end of his life he shifted his attention to the city and his late output is dominated by urban views. Curated by Guillermo Solana, this exhibition will subsequently be shown at the CaixaForum, Barcelona.

THE TIMING IS EXCELLENT TO SEE PISSARRO AND THE PORTS IN LE HAVRE, FRANCE AND PISSARRO IN MADRID, SPAIN THIS SUMMER.

 

PISSARRO AND THE PORTS–MORE INFORMATION PER REQUEST

seine at rouen saint sever The Seine at Rouen, Saint Sever, 1896, Musee d’Orsay, Paris, PDR 1122

 One of our readers requested more information about the Pissarro exhibition at Le Havre.  Here you are.  For more details: http://www.normandie-impressionniste.eu/node/6

Pissarro and the Ports – Rouen, Dieppe, Le Havre

Musée d’Art moderne André Malraux – Le Havre

27 April–29 September 2013

“The full dimension of the port motif was realized by Camille Pissarro in an important series of three Norman ports, Rouen, Dieppe and Le Havre, that he worked on between 1883 and 1903.

“The exhibition “Pissarro in the Ports” will bring together for the first time thirty or so of these works, most of which have been loaned from public and private collections abroad. Works by Eugène Boudin and Maxime Maufra will complement the set. The exhibition will end with works that are almost contemporary with those of Pissarro, and demonstrate the extent of the rupture that occurred in painting in the first years of the twentieth century.”

Musée d’art moderne André Malraux

2 Boulevard Clemenceau

76 600 Le Havre

Le Havre is reached easily by car or by a short train ride from Paris or Rouen. See  www.sncf.com/en/passengers for more information.

PISSARRO EXHIBITION AT LE HAVRE THIS SUMMER

Memphis Le Havre

Entrance to the Harbour at Le Havre With the

West Breakwater, Sunlight, Morning

1903

The Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, TN

PDR 1525

Will this wonderful painting by Pissarro be among those in the new exhibition in Le Havre that opens April 29?  The exhibition, part of the NORMANDY IMPRESSIONIST FESTIVAL, is called Pissarro and the Ports–Rouen, Dieppe, Le Havre and will be at the  Musée d’Art moderne André Malraux – Le Havre from 27 April–29 September 2013. Of course, I will be in Le Havre to see if this intriguing painting will travel from Memphis Tennessee for the exhibition!

At the entrace to Le Havre harbor, the jetty and semaphore, the flag-bedecked structure on the right, are clearly visible. The semaphore was used to transmit messages to ships long before they approached the harbor. The large variety of flags may indicate weather changes or heavy traffic in the harbor.

Two sailboats on the left stay well out of the way as a small steamboat enters the harbor. On the actual canvas, we can see two dark images on the horizon (not easily visible in photographs), possibly other ships waiting their turn to dock. Could Pissarro have been using binoculars to look out to sea? They would have been useful for spotting details from his balcony window.

Pissarro’s strong asymmetrical composition accents the colorful semaphore. He placed it at the point of a sharp angle formed by the dark diagonal of the breakwater and the ocean’s horizon. Like many of the Le Havre series, this painting devotes most of the canvas to the sky. The bright sunlight creates long shadows on the dock and pushes away the thin gauzy clouds. Its reflection has tinted the calm sea a light translucent green, which fades into a thin lilac strip where the ocean meets the sky. Despite the obvious nautical activity on this busy morning, the sense of calmness is heightened by the lightness of the sky and sea.

This historic photo showing the same dock demonstrate’s Pissarro’s genius for making something beautiful out of a scene that could be thought mundane!

dock

PISSARRO’S PLACES, the book, features a whole chapter on Le Havre and includes another painting by Pissarro of the docks, one of the two that Pissarro sold to the Musee Malraux in Le Havre. The book will be published in April. More details to come…..

Pissarro in Dieppe

Instead of painting the beach and ocean, Pissarro focused on the lively Dieppe market and the steam boats in the harbor. More at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pissarros-Places/142468192484556.



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