Posts Tagged 'l’Hermitage'

PISSARRO Exhibition Moves to Barcelona October 15!

The Hermitage Road at Pontoise, 1874 Musée d’Orsay, Paris   PDR349

The Hermitage Road at Pontoise, 1874
Musée d’Orsay, Paris PDR349

This charming landscape by Camille Pissarro was featured in the PISSARRO exhibition in Madrid.  Perhaps it will also be included at the CaixaForum in Barcelona when the PISSARRO exhibition opens there on October 15.

Some of Pissarro’s paintings look deceptively simple—and this is a perfect example! The top third of the canvas is filled with grayish clouds and the lower two-thirds are green fields. A horse and buggy provide a pleasant focal point just off center.

So how do you explain the intrinsic sense of movement, steady as a pulse, that drives the action in the painting. It is only paint on canvas, but you really believe that the buggy is moving forward at a brisk clip. You know that the man on the left will meet the two women walking towards him, and that the tiny buggy on the hillside road will soon disappear from sight.

Underlying these believable elements is a dramatic geometric form—a large lazy Z figure that appears on the horizon just left of center (look for the tiny buggy), makes a sharp angle around the three tall poplar trees, and almost disappears at the left foreground before it forms the bottom of the letter leading to the two women.  In a landscape that appears soft and curvy, this large Z is decidedly sharp and angular, dividing the fields into separate sections.

As if to heighten the excitement, Pissarro works each section in a different manner. Look closely at the space beneath the main road in the foreground. It is divided into four sections of grass, each of them different shades of green, and a small yellowish bridge.  The section between the bottom of the Z and the strong diagonal from left to right  includes six or seven different sections with small dark green trees at the top right edge of the canvas.  The section between the top of the Z and the diagonal is mostly a rosy beige with patches of green but is bordered on the left by darker green. A mysterious pale green band leads our eyes to the three tall poplars at the angle. The distant space above the second road going up the hill appears to be rocky fields defined by a narrow line of tiny green trees on the horizon. Even the sky seems to be doing its part, with the dark clouds scudding away quickly leaving lighter, brighter skies near the horizon.

All the movement is grounded by the prominent arch of the small bridge in the right lower corner of the canvas. It is reflected in the rocks just to the left highlighted by the small white arrow formed by the road’s surface. The stability of the view is also anchored by the presence of a herd of sheep with their shepherd far in the distance just above the woman’s white cap.

Pissarro’s paintings are often subtle. They don’t scream at you with clashing colors and jagged edges, but a careful look reveals many intricate features and very often surprises.

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PISSARRO’S PLACES,

the book about all the locations Pissarro painted,

 will be available in Barcelona at the CaixaForum bookstore.

www.pissarrosplaces.com

Why Did Pissarro Do This?

aa121

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.



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