Posts Tagged 'Impressionist'

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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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!

 

Pissarro: Impressionist or Abstract?

290-ploughed-fields1873-copy-2

Ploughed Fields Near Osny 1873 Private Collection PDRS 290

Many of Pissarro’s paintings fit the expected Impressionist “mold,” but his œuvre is full of paintings that do not match that style and are difficult to explain. For instance, the painting, Ploughed Fields Near Osny, made one year before the first Impressionist Exhibition, seems almost strange compared to most Impressionist paintings. While it depicts an imminent change in weather, there is none of the lightness and “prettiness” we have come to expect from the Impressionists.

What it offers is far more interesting—an earthy grid of colors and texture—large rectangles—one of deep purple in the foreground fading into brick red and then light salmon, others of different shades of green. The areas are further defined by varying brushstrokes—tiny repetitive up-and-down strokes next to circular forms and in the next section, short puddles of paint that create a mottled effect. While it appears to be a commonplace study in perspective, the genius of Pissarro places the view at a slight diagonal and curves the horizon line ever so gently. The farmer following two white horses and the three trees are just window-dressing for this captivating painting based on an abstract pattern.

PISSARRO – In Paris next February

An exciting new retrospective of Camille Pissarro’s works will be exhibited at the Marmottan Monet Museum in Paris, opening on February 23.  The following is from the Marmottan’s web-site.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 3.41.32 PM

CAMILLE PISSARRO “FIRST OF IMPRESSIONNISTES”

From February 23 to July 2, 2017

The Marmottan Monet Museum presents, from February 23 to July 2, 2017, the first monographic exhibition Camille Pissarro in Paris for 36 years. Some seventy-five of his masterpieces, paintings and temperas, from major museums worldwide and prestigious private collections, tracing the work of Camille Pissarro, from his youth in the Danish West Indies to large series urban of Paris, Rouen and Le Havre at the end of his life. Considered by Cézanne as ” the first Impressionist ” Pissarro was one of the founders of this group. It is also the only one to participate in their eight exhibitions. Companion and faithful friend of Monet, master of Cézanne and Gauguin, Seurat inspirer, supporter of Signac, Pissarro is a major and essential artist. Polyglot intellectual, committed and militant, listening to the younger generation, his work, powerful and evolving, offers a unique view of the research that has animated the Impressionists and Post-circles of the second half of the nineteenth century.

http://www.marmottan.fr/uk/Exposition_%C3%A0_venir-musee-2590

 

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.

EPSON MFP image

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.

railroad-to-dieppe-1886.jpg!Large

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.

PISSARRO LOOKS BACK AT PONTOISE

Landscape at Pontoise, c. 1879 Private collection PDR600

Landscape at Pontoise, c. 1879
Private collection PDR 600

Several wonderful Pissarro paintings are available in the Spring sales of Impressionist paintings in New York City this year. This one, “Landscape at Pontoise,” will be offered in the Day Sale on May 15, 2015 at Christie’s. It will be especially exciting to see it in person since the Pissarro catalogue raisonné (2005) contains only a black-and-white photograph. The provenance provided by Christie’s does not list any exhibitions, so it probably has not been on view for a long time.

It is a vertical painting, generally considered an unusual choice for a landscape. At that time, most artists used horizontal canvases that would give them plenty of room on each side of their focal point. This painting is also tiny, only 16 1/8 x 13 inches, a little treasure.

Pissarro uses more than half the canvas for a thick screen of tall poplar trees which prevents us from seeing the village of Pontoise in the distance. All we get is a narrow space through which we see the steeple of the church of Saint-Maclou, now a cathedral, and a couple of red roofs. Even in this close-up, the church steeple is indistinct and though our eyes are drawn to it, it is obviously not a the most important element (focal point) in the painting.

steeple detail

In the foreground, we see a woman bending over and a man in the distance. As we know, many of Pissarro’s paintings have no particular focal point–no large or important element that dominates the view. In this one, both the woman and man are mere sketches rendered in a few brushstrokes and hardly large enough to be important.

woman detail

Though the trees dominate the painting, they have no real importance–all they do is prevent us from seeing what is beyond. Pissarro developed this device about ten years earlier in his 1869 painting, “The Village Screened by Trees.” According to the catalogue raisonné, that was the first time that he used this screening device.

The Village Screened by Trees  c. 1869 Private collection PDR 134

The Village Screened by Trees c. 1869
Private collection PDR 134

We see trees used in similar ways in the paintings of Corot, with whom Pissarro had painted as a young man. But Corot’s paintings always had a focal point, and his trees were never as thick and as dominant as those in Pissarro’s screens.  Pissarro continued to use this compositional device throughout his career. Because this painting has no real focal point, we are forced to look at the painting literally as paint on canvas and enjoy the energy and movement of Pissarro’s brushstrokes.

The Lot Notes provided by Christie’s for this painting say, “Paysage à Pontoise was painted during a period when Pissarro was increasingly using small, stabbing brushstrokes of color to render his images, prefiguring Neo-Impressionism. … Pissarro has paid particular attention to enriching the painted surface with a stippling effect on the trees and the overgrown field.”

trees detail

Pissarro is painting in a way that was still very new for that time. He made this painting in 1879, the year of the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition. The art establishment of that time continued to favor paintings in which brushstrokes were invisible and the surface of the painting was smooth.  Pissarro is, once again, defying the accepted practice. Seen up close, it looks like he was applying the paint with wild abandonment–stabs of blue and white in the sky and green and dark green for the trees. A faint touch of light red among the green gives it even more brilliance.

This view of Pontoise from the nearby village of Ennery was lovely on a sunny day, but Pissarro was not interested in giving us a photographic reproduction. If all we see is the location, then we have missed the point. Pissarro used this view to provide an engaging design for putting paint on canvas.

COOL SHADE ON A SUMMER DAY- PISSARRO’S ERAGNY AT THE ORSAY

Le Lavoir de Bazincourt The Wash-House at Bazincourt 1900    PDR1323 Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Le Lavoir de Bazincourt
The Wash-House at Bazincourt
1900 PDR1323
Musée d’Orsay, Paris

 

The Musée d’Orsay recently opened a mini-exhibition of Camille Pissarro landscapes and drawings in Chamber 69 on the second floor just above the sculptures.

The room includes four oil paintings and six small gauches, watercolors and drawings.  Three of the paintings are seldom seen in Pissarro exhibitions. These works combined with the nearly 20 paintings hanging in the Impressionist gallery provide a wealth of Pissarro works on view.

Most outstanding of the paintings is a large masterwork depicting the Lavoir of Bazincourt. Bazincourt, a small village across the Epte River from Eragny, is seen in many of Pissarro’s later paintings. This painting is breathtakingly beautiful in person. Photographs are a very poor reflection of the painting’s luminosity.

Pissarro made this painting in 1900 during a midsummer day. The trees are full of leaves, a rich bright green. The lavoir is almost in the center of the painting, and in the foreground is the clear water of the little river. The deep green shadows of the trees draw you into the painting, and you almost feel the cool breeze creating the ripples in the water. The influence of pointillism is clear in this painting with Pissarro’s many small brushstrokes, mere touches of color to the canvas.

14 eragny-epte postcard

This old postcard shows a close-up view of a different lavoir on the Eragny side of the Epte River. In the 19th century, women washed their laundry in the small river, and these sheds (lavoirs) provided some shelter for this task. Many lavoirs have been preserved throughout Normandy, including one on the Epte River at Giverny.

I cannot resist sharing my favorite photo of the Epte River, actually taken from a newer bridge Eragny, which shows how beautiful this part of the river is. The water is still as clear and cool (probably clearer since no one does laundry in it anymore). This is not the same view as Pissarro’s painting, but it portrays the same feeling.

13 Epte River

If you find yourself in Paris, be sure to see all the Pissarro paintings in the Impressionist galleries at the Orsay and search out the small Pissarro exhibition in the PostImpressionist section.

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HELLO READERS

Special thanks to the person from Italy who read ten or more posts to this blog the other day. It is so interesting to see that Pissarro’s fans are all over the world. If you would like to respond to this blog, please feel free to email me. Emails will be kept confidential.

annsaul@pissarrosplaces.com

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PISSARRO’S PLACES

PISSARRO’S PLACES, the book about the locations where Pissarro made his greatest paintings is still available on amazon.com and at the book’s website: www.pissarrosplaces.com.  Those who visit the website can receive a special reader’s discount.



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