Posts Tagged 'Durand-Ruel'

Roses of Nice — PISSARRO in Barcelona

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Roses of Nice, 1902

Private Collection  PDR 1426

Camille Pissarro did not paint bouquets of flowers very often, but those he created are masterful. This one, featured in the PISSARRO exhibition in Barcelona, is a real treasure. Six pale pink roses, stand in a crystal vase, fully open and almost ready to drop their petals. The pale pink is highlighted with a creamy white that gives the flowers an inner glow. The vase sits on the lower level of a highly-polished chest. In the background, two paintings hang on the wall, but it is unclear whether they are Pissarro’s work. The one on the left hangs a little crooked and appears to include mountains. Could it be a Cezanne?

Pissarro must have made this painting in the spring of 1902, because in May he donated it to a sale at the Drouot auction house benefiting the widow of an artist friend.  Since he was always very specific in the names of paintings, we wonder about this one which clearly indicates that the pink roses are from Nice. At that time, Pissarro and his family were living in Paris on the Ile-de-la-Cité in an apartment facing Pont Neuf. The flowers may have come from Le Marché aux Fleurs, the flower market that has supplied flowers to the neighborhood since 1808.  While the market probably had roses in early spring (there are always roses in flower shops in Paris), would Pissarro have known where they were from?  Would he have bought them or would Julie have picked them up during her shopping trip?

When I saw this painting with Robert Froh, an American artist living in Barcelona, he suggested a more interesting idea.  Perhaps they were brought to the Pissarro family from Nice by Henri Matisse, who was living in Nice in 1902. Pissarro met Matisse at Durand-Ruel’s gallery in Paris in 1897.  According to Pissarro; Critical Catalogue (2005), “Though he never worked with Pissarro, Matisse benefited from his advice, found in him an attentive teacher and came under his influence for awhile.” Matisse visited Pissarro at his apartment on  Rue de Rivoli and watched him create his paintings of the Tuileries gardens (Pissarro: His Life and Work, 1980). So it is entirely possible that he came to Paris to visit Pissarro, bringing roses from Nice as a gift.  And it obviously pleased Pissarro to remember those roses in this lovely painting.

Robert Froh is from MIlwaukee, Wisconsin and has lived in Barcelona for a number of years. Take a look at his work: http://robertfroh.com/

The PISSARRO exhibition will be on view at the CaixaForum in Barcelona until mid-January. PISSARRO’S PLACES is available at the CaixaForum and also at the Excellence bookstore during the exhibition.

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Why Did Pissarro Do This?

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The Hills at l’Hermitage, Pointoise, c. 1867, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY

PDR 121

 Always pushing the edge of creativity and inventiveness, Pissarro painted The Hills at L’Hermitage, Pontoise in 1867, seven years before the first Impressionist Exhibition. But it demonstrates all the elements of Impressionism—the light palette, a scene of everyday life, and depiction of the weather.

It is the largest painting ever made by Pissarro. Paul Durand-Ruel, his agent, bought the painting in March 1873 and sold it the same day to Jean-Baptiste Faure, a famous operatic baritone who sang in Paris and London.

The people in Pissarro’s paintings are integral to its composition, but they are not there to tell a story.  In fact, they often raise questions that have no answers. In this painting, a woman and little girl are talking to another woman. Most scholars agree that they are in fact Julie, the painter’s wife, and his daughter Minette. They are talking to a woman whose back is towards us, but we can see from her arms clasped behind her back that she has dark skin. This is especially noticeable because the skin of Julie and Minette are very light, almost pink.

Who is this dark-skinned woman?  Is she an African or a gypsy woman?  What is the conversation between these two women from obviously different backgrounds?  As provocative as this question may be, the women are just two small elements in the painting. The difference in skin-color is so subtle that it goes unnoticed by many viewers. When you remember that everything in a painting is due to the artist’s choice, you wonder why Pissarro raised this unanswerable question.

AMONG THE SURVIVORS–PISSARRO’S APPLE TREES

   Apple Trees in Bloom

1870, McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton (Ontario), Canada

PDR 176

Camille Pissarro had lived in Louveciennes only a year when he made this lovely painting, Apple Trees in Bloom. He had painted the scenes of his neighborhood and now was exploring the nearby countryside. After painting outside in deep snow that winter, he must have been delighted to see the blossoming apple trees of spring.

This peaceful scene soon became a war zone. By September, the Prussians had defeated Napoleon III at Sedan and their soldiers began to occupy France. Before the troops reached Louveciennes, Pissarro and his companion Julie fled with their two small children to Montfoucault, the home of their dear friend Ludovic Piette in the Mayenne. Later, the young family went to London for the duration of the war.

When the Prussians occupied Louveciennes they commandeered Pissarro’s house, sleeping soldiers upstairs and keeping horses on the ground floor. In the garden, they slaughtered livestock and poultry, using Pissarro’s canvases as aprons and to cover the muddy ground. A great number of Pissarro’s art works were lost or destroyed beyond repair.

The catalogue raisonné (Pissarro:Critical Catalogue, 2005) notes that this painting was bought from the artist by Paul Durand-Ruel on April 30, 1872, almost a year after Pissarro returned from London. There is no information on where this painting and other surviving canvases were during the war.

This landscape is a complex composition of lines and angles. The road is just one of several layers of colors which come to a point and vanish in a distant cluster of houses. Several apple trees march in a straight row diagonally across the lower left, their precise alignment broken by the leaning tree at the front. In the distance lies a village, perhaps Louveciennes. The apple trees serve as a screen, both concealing and revealing the countryside. Pissarro first used this type of composition the previous year, and he continued to develop his use of this device throughout his career.

Apple Trees in Bloom was donated to the McMaster Museum of Art (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) in the mid-1980s by Dr. Herman Herzog Levy.



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