Posts Tagged 'Pontoise'

Paris Loves Pissarro – 3 of 3

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The Oise River at Pontoise, 2017

The last of the three Pissarro exhibitions wasn’t in Paris at all—it was in Pontoise, just a 30-minute train ride from Paris. Pissarro lived in Pontoise with his family at two different times—from 1866-1868 and again from 1872 – 1882. There he created some of his most well-loved Impressionist paintings.

Pontoise, an ancient city on the banks of the Oise River northwest of Paris, has two museums: Musée Tavet-Delacour and Musée Camille Pissarro, both under the direction of Christophe Duvivier, who curated the exhibition, “Camille Pissarro—Engraved Impressions.” This large selection of prints was the perfect compliment to the two exhibitions in Paris, showcasing the artist’s extraordinary creativity. According to the exhibition catalogue, there are known to be about 230 prints by Pissarro, including 131 engravings, 67 lithographs and some 30 monotypes. In this extensive exhibition, approximately sixty prints were those held by the Musée Camille Pissarro.

One of the most beautiful works is an early etching, “La Roche-Guyon,” (1866). The etching process is fairly simple: the artist scratches lines on a metal plate covered with a waxy material. Acid bites into the metal where it is exposed by the lines, forming grooves. After cleaning, the plate is inked and wiped so that ink remains only in the grooves. The plate is pressed against paper, creating the etching. Each print, as it comes off the press, is noted as a different state.

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La Roche-Guyon, 1866 Etching, 2nd state, Bibliothéque nationale de France, Paris

In 1879, Pissarro began making prints with Edgar Degas, who owned his own press. They experimented with the plate after each print, changing the image, as shown in these two prints, “Effect of Rain,” (1879). For the first state, Pissarro began, not with etching, but with aquatint. Powdered resin, which is dusted on the plate, melts when it is heated and forms hard bumps. Acid makes grooves around them to hold ink. Aquatint, unlike etching, allows the artist to vary areas of light and dark.

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Effect of rain, 1879 Aquatint, 1st state, Kunsthalle Bremen, Breme, Italy

In the sixth state, Pissarro used etching, aquatint, and soft ground, which creates lines that look as soft as pencil or crayon. In the intervening states, he darkened the haystack and added two people and trees. In the sixth state, he achieved the look of rain by rubbing the plate with emery cloth in delicate diagonal stripes.

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Effect of rain, 1879 Etching, aquatint and soft ground on zinc, Bibliothéque nationale de France, Paris

Pissarro’s prints frequently reflect the same motifs as his paintings. The print, “Path near the woods at l’Hermitage (Pontoise)” (1879) is practically identical to that of his painting, “View of l’Hermitage through the trees,” (1879), and it appears they were made around the same time.

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Path near the woods at l’Hermitage (Pontoise) 1879 Etching, soft ground, aquatine and dry point, Bibliothéque nationale de France, Paris

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View of l’Hermitage through the trees, 1879, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO

In 1894, Pissarro was finally able to afford a good press of his own, allowing him to perform more complicated experiments. To make “Market at Gisors (rue Cappeville)” (1894/1895), he used four plates, which were inked in black, blue, red and yellow. He was able to make greens and browns by allowing areas of color to overlap. The pinpoints at the top and bottom show how he aligned the plates so as to achieve the proper register.

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Market at Gisors (rue Cappeville), 1894/1895 Etching and dry point, 7th state, Bibliothéque nationale de France, Paris

Pissarro also experimented with monotypes, in which paint is applied to glass or smooth stone or metal covered with a greasy substance. As indicated by the name, only one print can be made of each work, but different colors can be used as on a canvas. In this one, “Women doing haymaking,” (c. 1894), the brushstrokes are visible.

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Women doing haymaking, c. 1894 Monotype in colors, Musée Faure, Aix-les-Bains, France

He also made lithographs, a process based on the principle that oil repels water. In “Quai de Rouen (Grand Pont)” (1896), he used a variety of gray tones to indicate light and shadow.

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Quai de Rouen (Grand Pont), 1896 Lithograph on zinc, Unique state, Musée Camille Pissarro, Pontoise

One of the most popular self-portraits of Pissarro is this etching made in 1890. It recalls Rembrandt’s self-portraits in which the face emerges from blackness. In this one, Pissarro’s eyes, peering from behind his half-rimmed glasses, are captivating while his dark coat fades into the background.

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Camille Pissarro, 1890 Etching and aquatint, 2nd state, Musée Camille Pissarro, Pontoise

PISSARRO in Paris, in Pontoise, and in Copenhagen

This Spring offers an unprecedented opportunity to study the work of Camille Pissarro with four unique exhibitions available at the same time.

PISSARRO at the Marmottan, already open, offers a comprehensive retrospective of his life’s work, bringing together many of his masterpieces.

marmottan

 

PISSARRO at Éragny is a more specialized look at his rural landscapes after 1884, a group of paintings that have not been closely studied before.

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CAMILLE PISSARRO

PISSARRO: ENGRAVED IMPRESSIONS IN PONTOISE

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Another very important Pissarro exhibition will take place in Pontoise this spring featuring  Pissarro’s print-making.  The following information is taken from the Facebook page of Musée Pissarro.  The translation from French is mine with the help of Google translations. If you’d like to read the original,  see: https://www.facebook.com/Mus%C3%A9e-Camille-Pissarro-314021768084/

In the second half of the 19th century, Pissarro worked together with Degas to make original engravings. Through his research, freely associating watercolor, aquatint and dry point, they invented Impressionist printmaking. In addition to nearly 200 prints, Pissarro also made monotypes.

In the early 1860s, Pissarro made his first etchings with a classical system of lines and hatching. When Dr. Gachet installed a press in his house in Auvers-sur-Oise in 1873, Pissarro made engravings together with Guillaumin and Cezanne. Beginning in 1879, he began a fruitful collaboration with Degas, who introduced him to colored inks. Pissarro began experimenting with engravings in multiple states that allowed him to retain variants of the same composition.  The possibility of comparing different versions of a motif was a precious discovery that influenced his paintings of urban and port views in his later years. He called his engravings, “engraved impressions.”

This is the most important exhibition in France of Pissarro’s print-making in many decades. It includes works from the collections of the Musée Pissarro, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France and private collections along with monotypes from the Musee Malraux du Havre and the Musee d’Aix-les-Baines.

Musée Tavet-Delacour, 4 rue Lemercier 95300 Pontoise

Open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 12:30 and from 13:30 to 18:00

6. PONTOISE d.pdf - Adobe Acrobat Professional

Pontoise is situated on high cliffs overlooking the Oise River. I took this photograph, one of my favorites, from the top of the hill where the Musée Pissarro is now located. It was in Pontoise that Pissarro painted some of his most beautiful Impressionist works. Many of the sites of his paintings are much the same as when he painted them. Visit the new Tourist Office on the banks of the Oise for more information.  Pontoise is just a 40-minute train ride from Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris.

 

Pissarro -Figures in a Landscape

 

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Two Young Peasant Girls, Chatting under the Trees, Pontoise, 1881, Private collection, PDRS 65

 

After focusing on landscapes in the 1860s and early 70s, Pissarro turned again (Brettell and Lloyd 1980, p 5.)to figure painting, a subject he had often depicted in St. Thomas and Venezuela. To best understand Pissarro’s figure painting, it is helpful to consider his drawings. Instead of long flowing lines, he constructed forms with many separate lines. “The idea of the whole figure seen as an enclosed form did not interest the young Pissarro.”1

In his paintings, this translates to forms that are more angular than fluid. This is evident in Two Young Peasant Girls Chatting under Trees, Pontoise, [PDRS 654] painted in 1881. The figures of the girls are set at angles, the sitting girl at almost a right angle while the standing girl’s right foot juts out putting her skirt at a slight angle with her bodice. This angle matches that of the leaning tree in the background.

The form of the standing girl is almost a series of color blocks. Her bodice is nearly square with little sign of actual bodily contours. A few light lines hint of a checker-board pattern in her blouse. Her light-blue skirt is a vertical parallelogram with shaded areas. The red-checkered kerchief covers her face. The form of the other girl is almost indistinct, and her features are mere notations. Both figures are built up with tiny touches of paint, often applied in directional strokes to suggest the form underneath. The foliage behind them is constructed using the same tiny directional strokes that almost stitch the girls into the background. In fact, the brushstrokes are so similar that the girl leaning on the tree would almost disappear into the tree trunk except for the dramatic difference in colors.

This figure painting is so different from what artists had done in the past. The people, who are unknown and have no special importance, are in a place of no significance. There is nothing in the background to tell us anything about them or why they are there—nothing to suggest a storyline. Théodore Duret wrote later, “[Pissarro] portrayed men and women as he saw them, with a simplicity of method and a direct truth of observation greater than had been known before.”2

The composition of the painting, based on the angles of the trees, pulls the standing girl into a highly geometric matrix. Indeed, the shape of the tree at the far right mirrors the stance of the girl. As Brettell and Lloyd say about one of Pissarro’s figure drawings, “She exists within, and merges with, the structured confines of her setting.”3

The area behind the trees is filled with colored planes, and only one tiny house in the distance suggests any depth. The highly-worked surface calls attention to the vigorous brushstrokes and diverts attention from the girls to the making of the painting.

Pissarro had painted this location once before in 1875 in The Climb, Rue de la Côte-du-Jalet, Pontoise. The addition of figures makes the depiction of the steep cliff even more complicated. (See the previous blog on The Climb.)

 

 

1Brettell, R. R. and C. Lloyd (1980). A Catalogue of the Drawings by Camille Pissarro in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Oxford, The Clarendon Press.

2Duret, T. D. (1910). Manet and the French Impressionists. Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott Company.

3Brettell, R. R. and C. Lloyd (1980). A Catalogue of the Drawings by Camille Pissarro in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Oxford, The Clarendon Press.

 

 

 

MORE….PISSARRO IN VIENNA

Rue de Gisors - 1868 Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, Austria PDR 127

Rue de Gisors – 1868
Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, Austria PDR 127

Never before have I written two posts about the same painting. But this one from Vienna is more puzzling that it appears. Even in his earliest days as an artist, Pissarro was more interested in using paint on canvas than he was in creating a what most people thought was the perfect picture.  The previous post discussed the strange composition which would have been easy if only it did not include that odd blank space and sliver of a house on the left.

But that isn’t the only unusual thing—Pissarro seemed to be using the large spaces to demonstrate  that brushstrokes can differentiate areas even when colors are almost the same. The predominant color in this painting is the yellowish beige of the houses and walkways.  The clouds and hills are various shades of gray blue, and only the dark green grass in the lower left corner is markedly different.

The grass is composed of large horizontal brush strokes, seemingly with a wide brush. The tiny furrows made by the stiff bristles are very evident from the bottom of the canvas to the vanishing point at the distant blue hillside. There is no difference in intensity or color in the grass of the foreground and that at the vanishing point.

The walkway beside the road seems to have been painted with a smaller brush and more delicate strokes that form very shallow arches. In the foreground the path appears to be a bit lighter than at the horizon line, but the major clue to perspective is the narrowing of the path. 

The road cuts a diagonal swath across the canvas from the right corner to the horizon line, with a shallow walkway on the other side that ultimately disappears. The light on the roadway is directly opposite that on the walkway, appearing darker in the foreground and lighter toward the vanishing point. The brushstrokes on the road are also delicate but are different in shape from those of the path. They appear to be short wavy lines that are slightly diagonal.

The construction of the houses are suggested with pale blue gray blocks  on the pale yellow-beige walls. There is no attempt to paint realistic shutters. They are simply rough perpendicular strokes that are not always aligned. 

The cloudy sky gives Pissarro more opportunities for varied brush strokes. The clouds near the hilltop appear soft with circular strokes. The dark gray clouds at the top are also composed of circular strokes.  The very white clouds in the center seem more ferocious than the dark ones because they are composed of wide brushstrokes in a herringbone pattern.

It seems that Pissarro was using this painting almost like a “sampler” to show that the type of strokes can create important differences in various areas even when the colors are very similar. This canvas shows that he is as interested in the textures the paint creates as he is in recording a picture of a specific place.

The biggest puzzle of all, however, is the woman in the black dress at the left.  She is almost hidden in the shadows, and we would not notice her except for her white petticoat. Who is she? Why is she on the grass instead of the walkway? Why is she there at all? The painting would accomplish the same thing even if she were not there. It calls attention to this strange little group including the tiny little house, the row of three saplings and the woman. What do they mean? We will never know, but we do know that Pissarro often places elements in his paintings that cannot be explained.  It is part of the charm in looking closely at his paintings.

PISSARRO IN VIENNA

Rue de Gisors - 1868 Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, Austria PDR 127

Rue de Gisors – 1868
Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, Austria PDR 127

 

Pissarro made several paintings on the Rue de Gisors in Pontoise, but this one is unlike any of the others.  He painted it during his first stay in Pontoise before the beginnings of Impressionism.

The paintings he made of this street after the Franco-Prussian war show a different part of the street, a high traffic area looking towards the center of town.  This view appears to be the other end the street, looking toward a faraway hill.  At this point, he was still using black in his paintings, as shown by the woman in the black dress on the left. The colors appear to be dark, but this may be simply the an accumulation of residue from more than a hundred years ago.

This painting is one of the few surviving paintings made by Pissarro that date before 1872, the end of the Franco-Prussian War.  During 1870-71, Pissarro fled with his family, first to Brittany and then to London, where he stayed until the war was over.  While he was gone, his home in Louveciennes was used by Prussian soldiers to house their horses and soldiers. They used his canvases to butcher animals and to cover mud in the garden. At that time, he was in his early 40s, and nearly all of his life’s work was destroyed.  Only about 30 paintings survive from those early days.

This painting provides a special insight into Pissarro’s art before Impressionism. I had a chance to see this painting recently in Vienna and here is a little bit of what I learned. His painting was already radical. The composition focuses on the wide cobblestone street with walkways on either side which appears to go downhill. The buildings on the right side of the street are typical and are very much like buildings on that street today. It is the left side of the composition that is so curious. Beside the road on the left is a tiny house partially hidden behind a row of slender trees. In photographs, it is difficult to see the roofline behind the trees, but in person, it is barely visible. To the left is an open space showing sky and then a tiny sliver of another building. If the little trees had been on the left edge of the canvas, the composition would have looked very ordinary. As it is, your attention is drawn to the empty space instead. Other people in the painting seem to be doing something or going somewhere, but the mysterious woman in the black dress is just standing there on the grass. We might not notice her except for the white ruffle on her dress.

There is much more in this painting that is radical for its time, and I will write more about it in another post.

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.



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