Posts Tagged 'Louveciennes'

PISSARRO: In the Chestnut Grove at Louveciennes

 

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Chestnut Grove at Louveciennes, 1872, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, PDRS 233

Chestnut Grove at Louveciennes [PDRS 233], painted by Pissarro in 1872, is one of three Pissarro masterpieces that will be on exhibition when the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art opens their newly renovated Bloch Galleries on March 11. This painting alone makes a cross-country flight to Kansas City worthwhile.

When Pissarro returned to Louveciennes after the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), he immediately began painting sites near his own home. This grove of trees must have been very close since the Marly Aqueduct, visible in the background, also ran behind Pissarro’s house.

In real life, these few trees may have looked rather ordinary, but Pissarro used them to make a painting that is no less than radical. The trees make dark slashes across the sky and dig deep into the canvas. They force you to pay attention—nothing else is important, not the pale blue sky or the smattering of houses in the background, not even the Marly Aqueduct.

The big tree in the foreground establishes its preeminence with its broad trunk, white in the sunlight, and one twisted branch reaching up to and out of the canvas at the upper left corner. From the main trunk, another curved branch makes a sharp angle to the right. Between them a large branch seemingly comes from nowhere, extending parallel to the other one. To the right, another tree is bent over at an extremely sharp angle. Its trunk, unusually straight, reaches across half the canvas to the upper right corner. The other trees merely stand by, as straight as their twisted trunks will allow. In the foreground, dark purple shadows radiate from the larger tree, crisscrossing the pale grass even on the side where the sun is shining.

This painting is a grand pas de deux in composition. These two trees command the canvas—their branches embracing the top corners, their shadows making angles on the foreground. And it all comes back to the two trunks, the big gnarly one bent slightly to the left and the slim straight one with its dangerous angle to the right.

What was important to Pissarro was the pattern made by the trees and the shadows. If in your imagination, you eliminate the background and consider only the two trees, this composition might remind you of a painting by Franz Kline, with its bold slashes and sharp angles.

This is why Pissarro was so much more than we ever imagined—even during the birth of Impressionism, he was painting in an abstract manner.

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Vavvdavitch 1955 Franz Kline Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

 

RADICAL PAINTING CLOTHED IN SIMPLICITY

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

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

This stunning painting, The Village Screened by Trees, (1869) seems so simple, yet it is an enigma. There is a village bathed in the crisp clear sunlight of autumn. We long to hurry through the trees to see it more clearly. But Pissarro holds us back and forces us to take a more complicated view. A thick stand of tall trees creates a screen that blocks our sight line and demands our attention. This is the first of Pissarro’s paintings to use this unique device in composition.

Some of Pissarro’s earlier paintings were similar to those of Corot in that they used rows or groups of trees to frame the view. This painting, however, does the opposite—the trees obstruct the view, forcing our eyes to wander in an out of the spindly tree trunks to piece together our view of the village. Years later, Pissarro took this device to the extreme in his painting La Côte des Bœufs, Pontoise (1877) with a screen of trees that covers the entire canvas.

We could ask why Pissarro did this, but there is no answer. What we do know is that most Impressionist paintings have a clear focal point, and the picture’s elements are arranged so that the motif is easily understood. This composition of this picture does the opposite. In 1869, five years before the First Impressionist Exhibition, Pissarro’s concept of forcing the viewer to look through a screen was totally radical.

This painting presents other puzzles as well. Most landscapes are horizontal in shape, but this one is vertical, which easily accommodates the tall trees. While the actual date of the painting is unknown, it has been placed at 1869, the year Pissarro moved to Louveciennes. Scholars say that the actual village is unknown since its particular topography does not appear to match Pissarro’s other views of either Louveciennes or Pontoise.

However, Pissarro points the way through the screen. Directly in front of us is a walkway leading to the village and a smaller path branching off to the right. Together, they form a strong V that anchors the composition. Just to be sure we don’t miss it, Pissarro places a small figure of a woman in the angle. He repeats this angle in the limbs of the tree just above her head and again in the background with the two sections of wall leading into the picture from each side.

While some might think this painting somewhat bland compared with other works of its time, it is, in fact, highly sophisticated and experimental. Perhaps if so many of Pissarro’s paintings of this period had not been lost in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-18871), he would be correctly recognized as the artist who was far ahead of his time. 

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.

PISSARRO IN SPAIN — THIS SUMMER–IT’S PISSARRO!

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The Orchard at Éragny, 1896, Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on deposit at Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, PDR 1134

AN EXTRAORDINARY EXHIBITION IS OPENING IN JUNE IN MADRID!!  Perhaps the gorgeous painting shown above will be among those in the exhibition at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.

Here’s the full story from their superb English website (http://www.museothyssen.org/en/thyssen/home)

Pissarro

From 04 June to 15 September 2013

In the summer of 2013 the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza will be presenting the first monographic exhibition in Spain on the Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro (1830-1903). A key figure within Impressionism (he wrote the movement’s foundational letter and was the only one of its artists to take part in all eight Impressionist exhibitions from 1874 to 1886), Pissarro was nonetheless eclipsed by the enormous popularity of his friends and colleagues, in particular Claude Monet. The exhibition includes more than 70 works with the aim of restoring Pissarro’s reputation and presenting him as one of the great pioneers of modern art. Landscape, the genre that prevailed in his output, will be the principal focus of this exhibition, which offers a chronologically structured tour of the places where the artist lived and painted: Louveciennes, Pontoise and Éragny, as well as cities such as Paris, London, Rouen, Dieppe and Le Havre. While Pissarro is traditionally associated with the rural world, to which he devoted more than three decades of his career, at the end of his life he shifted his attention to the city and his late output is dominated by urban views. Curated by Guillermo Solana, this exhibition will subsequently be shown at the CaixaForum, Barcelona.

THE TIMING IS EXCELLENT TO SEE PISSARRO AND THE PORTS IN LE HAVRE, FRANCE AND PISSARRO IN MADRID, SPAIN THIS SUMMER.

 

STUNNING PISSARRO PAINTING –AUCTION RESULTS

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The Seine at Port-Marly,  c. 1872,  PDR 236

This gorgeous Pissarro painting was auctioned yesterday at Sotheby’s. The final price was 914,850 GBP or in US $1,431,690.  How fortunate is that lucky buyer!!

See the previous blog for more information on this painting and another one painted in that same location.

PISSARRO PAINTING AT SOTHEBY’S IS A REAL PRIZE!!

040L13002_6524H_reshot.jpg.thumb.385.385The Seine at Port-Marly,  c. 1872,  PDR 236

If only I were in London this weekend to see this lovely Camille Pissarro painting which will be auctioned at Sotheby’s next week. (PDR 236)  This stunning canvas has been in private hands since it was created in 1872 and has not often been exhibited.  The pre-sale show at Sotheby’s may be the only opportunity for people like me to see it before it goes back into another private collection.

Painted when Pissarro returned to Louveciennes after the Franco-Prussian war, it is very similar to a painting in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. (PDR 229)  That one shows a roofed washhouse built out over the river where women gathered to do the laundry.  In the Sotheby painting, the washhouse does not appear. The view suggests that the artist may have carried his easel onto the floor of the washhouse itself which puts him in the midst of the reflections on the Seine.

The entire right side of the canvas is dominated by a bathing house, where the French working class people would go to enjoy their weekends and holidays. Tucked away in a large bank of trees, it suggests leisure and pleasure. The left side of the painting reveals a strong counterpoint. Under a vast expanse of open sky, factories and barges line the other river bank, reminding us of the industrialization underway. A boat is in the center of the river, and it is impossible to tell whether he is headed back to work or rowing toward a free afternoon. How lucky the person will be who wins this beautiful prize at the Sotheby’s sale next week!

*PDR designates the numbers assigned to these paintings in PISSARRO:CRITICAL CATALOGUE (2005).

More about Pissarro’s time and paintings in Louveciennes in PISSARRO’S PLACES, to be published this April by Art Book Annex.com

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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