Posts Tagged 'La Vareene-Saint-Hilaire'

PISSARRO AT THE MUSEE D’ORSAY IN PARIS–OF COURSE!

Bac à la Varenne-Saint-Hilaire 1864 Musee d'Orsay

Bac à la Varenne-Saint-Hilaire
1864
Musee d’Orsay

 

Today I was at the Orsay, and I counted 19 paintings by Camille Pissarro on view.  This is more than I remember at any other time. The Orsay has approximately 60 paintings by Pissarro, yet they generally have shown the same ones, usually less than 10. All of those were on display today, but there were many others which usually are not shown. 

The one shown above, Barge at La Vareen Saint-Hillaire, is unfamiliar to me and I suspect to most other Pissarro fans. It is a very early painting, 1864. made ten years before the first Impressionist Exhibition.  Already you can see that Pissarro was rebelling against the academic structure of the Salon. 

This painting is tiny by any measure, only 16.1 x 10.6 inches.  It would have never been able to complete with large Salon paintings and clearly was not meant to.  In fact, it was probably painting en plain air, on the actual site.  The paint is applied in thick brushstrokes, which are clearly visible—another push against academia which favored smooth finishes with invisible brushstrokes. The motif is a landscape, which depicts a very ordinary scene with people at their daily activities.  This also countered the Salon’s preference for paintings depicting history, myths, or important events.

The painting shows a barge crossing the Marne river, carrying a horse and carriage.  The river is obviously very still because we can see the reflections of the barge and its passengers in the water.  It may be the quiet before the storm given the dark clouds overhead. At the left is another smaller boat with its passengers either ready to depart or just landing.  On the opposite bank, we see the hill rising from the river with a town at its crest.

La Vareen Saint-Hillaire, southeast of Paris, is an old town on the Marne river. An abbey was established there in 639 AD, and in the 16th century, a castle was built. The ancient abbey was destroyed during the French Revolution. This painting was made in 1864, six years before the Franco-Prussian War which was particularly harsh on this little village.

This painting shows that even before the Impressionist movement, Pissarro was in the vanguard of opposition to the strictures of the Salon. He led the way toward new ways of seeing color and motifs and new painting techniques.

You can view the painting on the Orsay’s website at this website; however, their digital photo does not allow you to enlarge the photo very much for close examination. 

http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/collections/index-of-works/resultat-collection.html?no_cache=1&zoom=1&tx_damzoom_pi1%5Bzoom%5D=0&tx_damzoom_pi1%5BxmlId%5D=000398&tx_damzoom_pi1%5Bback%5D=en%2Fcollections%2Findex-of-works%2Fresultat-collection.html%3Fno_cache%3D1%26zsz%3D9

A young artist studying Pissarro

A young artist studying Pissarro

Pissarro would love this little girl who was diligently copying one of his paintings.  He taught his own children to draw at an early age and most of them became artists whose paintings are in the collection of the Musee d’Orsay (though they are rarely if ever seen). To her credit, she chose an especially hard painting to reproduce. Since this was midway in her copy book, she probably has already worked on many other paintings.  (I wasn’t the only one attracted by her concentration. Without her knowledge, a circle of admiring adults were watching, taking pictures, but being careful not to interrupt her.)

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HELLO TO READERS

A few weeks ago, one European reader came on this blog and read 69 postings in one day!  Since I have no way to know who you are, I just want to say THANK YOU for your interest in Pissarro and for visiting this blog.  Many readers log on the blog and read several posts, and others perhaps come more often to check out what is new.

When I last checked the statistics, there were readers in more than 70 countries and on six continents. (I guess Antarctica does not have any Pissarro fans.) To all of you, sincere thanks for your interest in Pissarro and for reading this blog.

Some readers have told me that they had difficulty posting comments to the blog. The intricacies of this website are beyond me, but I would definitely like to hear from you. Here is an email address by which you can reach me directly. 

annsaul@pissarrosplaces.com

I would love to hear your comments.  If you would like me to post your comments, please let me know.  Otherwise, i will keep your remarks private.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Ann Saul

Author of PISSARRO’S PLACES

Blog:  artbookannex.com

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PISSARRO’S PLACES

The book is available at www.pissarrosplaces.com. There is a special discount available for those who visit the website.  It is also available on Amazon.

A Winter Landscape

The Banks of the Marne in Winter 1866 Art Institute of Chicago PDR 107

The Banks of the Marne in Winter 1866
Art Institute of Chicago PDR 107

This elegant painting by  Pissarro, which appeared in the Salon of 1866, must have looked very different from the others. It drew the attention of critics, one of whom called it a “vulgar view.” We know that Pissarro lived nearby. After he died, this picture was included in the inventory of his works and was called Landscape at La Varenne-Saint-Hilaire. He and his companion Julie were living there the previous spring, when their first daughter Jeanne Rachel was born.

But why this scene, which is so bleak, so empty? It is intriguing because of its mystery—it does not tell a story, does not pamper the eye. It is a tightly-woven geometric structure of horizontal and diagonal lines that pulls you into its web. Anchoring the painting is the straight line beginning with the river bank on the left of the canvas and meeting what we assume is a road with the horse and carriage, then extends through the smattering of houses to the right edge. In the midst of the dark green ground cover, a shorter line of dark earth extends to the right side. Midway up the mountain just below the white house on the crest of the hill is another dark line, presumably a road.

These three more or less parallel lines are slashed by the strong diagonal road leading from the left lower corner, accentuated by spindly leafless trees. A woman walks the other direction to draw our attention to the carriage with white horses at the corner. There are other diagonals, softer ones—the line of trees from the crest of the hill to a house below and a renegade dark line in the clouds above.

For Pissarro, it was enough. And for Emile Zola, a writer and art critic who was seeing Pissarro’s work for the first time, it also was enough. He wrote a long glowing review of the painting including the following comments: “…you ought to know that you please nobody and that your painting is thought to be too bare, too black. So why the devil do you have the arrant awkwardness to paint solidly and study nature so honestly!…Not the least delectation for the eye. A grave and austere kind of painting, an extreme care for truth and rightness, an iron will. You are a clumsy blunderer, sir —you are an artist that I like.”

Looking at a Pissarro painting is not always easy—he requires us to think, to look closely and to question what we see.  This is why his paintings are endlessly interesting.

The quote from Zola is taken from Pissarro:Critical Catalogue, Pissarro and Durand-Ruel Snollaerts (2005).

This painting is one of 35 paintings by Pissarro featured in the book PISSARRO’S PLACES www.pissarrosplaces.com

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  One winter day while returning on the train from Reims to Paris, I saw a line of hills that looked strikingly familiar, and even more so because of a bright green ground cover of some sort that extended from the railroad tracks to some houses. I quickly checked the GPS of my phone and found, much to my surprise, I was in the very area painted by Pissarro!  


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