Posts Tagged 'France'

Pissarro’s Birthday – July 10, 1830

 

CP

Camille Pissarro

On July 10, 1830, Camille Pissarro was born in Charlotte Amalie, the principal city on the island of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.  At the age of 12, his parents sent him to private school in Passy, a suburb of Paris, where he learned to draw. From that time forward, his life was devoted to art.

At the age of 53, he wrote his son Lucien, “Painting, art in general, enchants me. It is my life. What else matters? When you put all your soul into a work, all that is noble in you, you cannot fail to find a kindred soul who understands you, and you do not need a host of such spirits. Is not that all an artist should wish for?”*

Today, there are hosts of kindred souls who love Pissarro’s work. Two exhibitions in Paris were filled with people; one extended its time for two extra weeks. In Pontoise, viewers crowded the galleries to look at his engravings. Even in Copenhagen, large groups came to see the early works of Pissarro. Since this blog on Pissarro began in 2012, there have been 23,420 views from readers on six continents, showing the international appeal of Pissarro’s work.

But Pissarro was never satisfied with the present; he was always looking for innovative techniques, bigger challenges, and new ways to express his “sensations.” While he is considered “The First Among the Impressionists,” he is so much more.

The only way to understand his artistic contribution is to look at his work, not through the microscope of Impressionism, but with a wide-angle lens that includes the generations of painters who followed him. Some of the techniques he pioneered had no name in his time; now, we see them as virtually abstract. Our comprehension of Pissarro’s genius has only just begun.

860 The Flock of Sheep, Eragny 1888 -

The Flock of Sheep, Eragny, 1888 Private collection, PDRS 860

In just thirteen years, we will mark Pissarro’s 200th birthday. He will be the first Impressionist to reach that milestone. How should he be remembered in that year? Here are some possibilities:

  A comprehensive retrospective in major museums in France and the United States.

  A scholarly symposium that looks at Pissarro’s work as seminal in the wide scope of modern and contemporary art, resulting in publications. (An excellent symposium was held in 2003 commemorating the 100th anniversary of Pissarro’s death, but it centered on his role as Impressionist.)

  New research into Pissarro’s work by graduate students of art schools and universities.

  A new more comprehensive biography, including extensive new information from the 2005 catalogue raisonne (Joachim Pissarro and Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts).

It is not too soon to begin thinking about 2030—good exhibitions, research, and publication of books take time.  And when Pissarro’s work is in focus, there are always surprises.

*Letter of November 20, 1883, Letters to His Son Lucien, edited by John Rewald.

 

 

 

 

 

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PISSARRO’S HAYSTACKS

Haystacks, Morning, Éragny 1899 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York   PDR 1282

Haystacks, Morning, Éragny
1899
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York PDR 1282

Camille Pissarro is not known for his haystacks, but perhaps he should be. According to the catalogue raisonne, he painted haystacks when he was only 26 years old—the year after he returned to France to pursue a career as an artist.

In the winter of 1898-99, Pissarro was financially comfortable enough to move his family to Paris for the winter. They stayed in an apartment on Rue Rivoli, no doubt a lot warmer than the old farmhouse at Éragny, and he painted splendid views of the Tuileries gardens and the Louvre.

In June, he and his family returned to their home at Éragny and he painted the “little nooks” he found around him.  He wrote his son Ludovic-Rodolphe, “It’s very beautiful here—you can make a masterpiece out of next to nothing,” and he did.

The deep green trees of midsummer dominate the space, but our eyes go to the three haystacks in the left foreground. As he usually does, Pissarro tells us the place and time of day. It’s morning, fairly early since the shadows are still long. You almost feel the heat of the sun baking the left side of the haystack turning the gold into myriad yellows, pinks, corals. On the other side, the purple shadow mutes those same colors. 

This is one of six haystack paintings he made that summer. In no way did Pissarro intend them to compete with Monet’s haystacks. Each of them is different in composition; some include a peasant woman, who sometimes naps at the base of the haystack.  He did do another one similar to this one, in the late afternoon. It would be fantastic to see these two side by side.

This wonderful painting is currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  If you can’t go see it in person, look at it on the Met’s website, which allows you to zoom in close and see every brushstroke.

http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/438738#fullscreen

The Camille Pissarro Catalogue Raisonne by Joachim Pissarro and Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts was published in 2005.

PISSARRO’S PLACES IN NEW YORK

Many thanks to the kind folks who came to the Dobbs Ferry and Harrison libraries a couple weeks ago

to hear my talk on PISSARRO’S PLACES.

It was delightful to talk with you afterward and sign your copies of PISSARRO’S PLACES.

*   *   *   *   *

PISSARRO’S PLACES

is available on the website:

www.pissarrosplaces.com

or at Amazon.

There is a special discount for

friends who visit the website.

INTRODUCING THE NEW PISSARRO PAINTING AT PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART

pmacropApple Tree in the Meadow, Eragny
1893 — PDR 995

This stunning painting, a gift to the museum from John C. Haas and Chara C. Haas, is part of a new exhibition called First Look: Collecting for Philadelphia, a selection of 125 pieces from more than 8500 works of art donated to PMA over the last five years.

At first glance, it seems to be a simple painting.  There is the obvious focal point, an apple tree in full leaf with perhaps a few blossoms left, suggesting early summer.  The bright blue sky is cloudless, rather unusual since most of the Eragny paintings made that summer have puffy white clouds. The brilliant sunlight fades the green of the grass in the meadow. It must have been a calm day—the tree shows no sign of wind or breezes.  Pissarro set his easel in the meadow facing the tall white fence that separates the house, and front garden from the orchard. This painting was made the year after the Pissarro family purchased the house at Eragny.

But very little with Pissarro is ever simple, and neither is this picture. The brilliant sunlight creates purple shadows making patterns on the ground. We do not know what caused the shadows—a typical Pissarro mystery. The painting consists of horizontal bands with a perpendicular tree trunk, but wait!  The right edges of those shadows create a strong diagonal line, and there’s more. Follow the diagonal of the roof line down through the thickest part of the tree to the small object in the right foreground. Another diagonal hidden in the elements of the painting! It appears that Pissarro put that object there just to complete the diagonal and give strength to the composition.  But what is that object?

detail crop

A short post, perhaps. The wall behind it is about six feet tall, so it couldn’t be more than two or three feet high. A very close look (see the detail) reveals characteristics of a figure. (For a reality check, I asked a friend what she saw, and she immediately answered, “a woman.”) In fact, the figure, painted with very few brush strokes appears to be a woman in a blue dress with a red and white kerchief on her hair, holding a basket. If so, she is a very small scale compared to other elements in the painting. Of course, she could be a small garden statue, though I would not expect one to look like a maid. We know why Pissarro put the object in that place (to complete the diagonal line), but we do not know what! It is just another of the many puzzles that can be found in Pissarro’s paintings.

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 You can see it for yourself on the PMA website: http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/319041.html?mulR=5031|1.  In the lower right hand corner of the painting, click on the magnifying glass and you can study the details of the painting. Notice the tiny brushstrokes and the mixture of colors. When you zoom in on the object, press CTL and + at the same time to magnify it even more.  Leave me a comment and let me know what you think it is!

Photos were taken by the author (with the museum guard’s permission and no flash) on my Iphone.

 

 

 

 

PISSARRO–Madrid’s Exhibition–An Extraordinary Experience

Essen snowfall

Chemin des Creux, Louveciennes, Snow, 1872, PDR 219

Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany

This incredibly beautiful Pissarro landscape from Louveciennes was one of the major highlights of PISSARRO, the exhibition at Museum Thyssen Bornemisza in Madrid. This reproduction, taken from the Museum Folkwang’s website does not do it justice. The weak winter sunlight provides little warmth on the gleaming white snow, with its shades of blue and pink. The deep shadows are delicate shadings of blues, grays, mauves. The old tree’s rotten center is filled with snow and your eye gets lost in the graceful tangle of small branches.

The entire exhibition, which began with Pissarro’s last self-portrait, was as carefully composed as one of his paintings–arranged chronologically, many times in pairs that enhanced the experience of each work. While the selection of 79 paintings included many well-known paintings, there were also some delightful surprises.

The museum’s own Route de Versailles was carefully paired with a similar painting from the High Museum in Atlanta. Two of Pissarro’s most beautiful paintings from London 1871 were together, the field near Sydenham Hill and Dulwich College. Two landscapes of l’Hermitage at Pontoise were similar locations but displayed strikingly different techniques. Another exceptionally wide painting of 1877 from Ottawa, Canada, displayed a composition that is sparse and modern-looking for its time.

A pair of very wide landscapes, two very different versions of the crooked apple tree in Pissarro’s orchard, similar views of the garden wall were among the paintings from Eragny.

Imagine my surprise when I saw the two paintings from Pitti Palace in Florence that I wrote about a few months ago. What a treat to see them again, this time close up and at eye level.

The city views featured two versions of Boulevard Montmartre paintings, the museum’s own Rue Saint-Honore paired with the same motif from Copenhagen. An exquisite selection of Rouen paintings featured the bridges, the Seine, the boats and the changeable weather.

Mind you, these galleries were not hushed and quiet, and people did not parade around the room in a slow shuffle like they usually do.  There was an excited buzz in the air as people looked first at one and then the other and then back again. Some visitors were going back into previous rooms to compare earlier and later works, or landscapes with cityscapes. Viewers were spending time in front of paintings, looking closely, walking up to see brushstrokes and back to embrace the unity.

Pissarro must be smiling.

PISSARRO’S PLACES is on sale in the bookstore of the PISSARRO exhibition in Madrid.  I had the honor of signing books for several people who bought them on the day I was there.  What a pleasure to meet each of them and share thoughts about Pissarro.

Readers of this blog can obtain a copy of PISSARRO’S PLACES at Amazon.com or the Barnes & Noble website.  A special price for friends of this blog is available at the book’s website:  http://www.pissarrosplaces.com.



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