Posts Tagged 'St. Thomas'

PISSARRO in Copenhagen

Palm tree painting

Landscape from the Antilles, rider and donkey on the road, 1856, Ordrupgaard, Charlottenlund

Copenhagen feels a special connection with Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), and rightly so. The artist was, after all, a Danish citizen his whole life. And his early life was marked by a close connection with a Danish painter named Fritz Melbye (1826-1869). It was their friendship and their influence on each other which inspired the recent exhibition, “Pissarro, a meeting in St. Thomas” at the Ordrupgaard in the outskirts of Copenhagen.

Pissarro was born on July 10, 1830 in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. At that time, St. Thomas and its neighboring islands St. Croix and St. John were the Danish West Indies, a colony of Denmark. Thus, Pissarro was a Danish citizen at birth, and though he spent all of his adult life in France, he never became a French citizen.

After attending school in France, the young man was expected to enter the family business in the Caribbean. But he wanted to be an artist. It was while working on the docks at Charlotte Amalie that he met Fritz Melbye.

Because Melbye was four years older than Pissarro, it might be assumed that he had much to teach the young artist. But Pissarro’s early drawings and paintings show that his technique was already well advanced. What occurred was a collegial sharing of ideas and interests.  They traveled together to Venezuela where for almost two years they worked side-by-side, exploring the mountains and maintaining an art studio in Caracas where they painted and sold their works.

This exhibition brought together a large number of Pissarro’s early drawings, watercolors, and paintings, pairing them with drawings and paintings by Melbye. A large portion of the exhibition was based on work done previously by Richard Brettell on a cache of works that Melbye had left with Frederick William Church (1826-1900) in Olano, New York. Another sizable portion included Pissarro’s early drawings from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, UK, which were catalogued by Brettell and Christopher Lloyd.

One new discovery was the early Pissarro painting, “Landscape from the Antilles, rider and donkey on the road,” (1856), which was not included in the recent catalogue raisonne by Joachim Pissarro and Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts (2005). It may have been bought in France by Anton Melbye (1818-1875), artist and brother of Fritz, and taken back to Denmark at some point.

Pissarro’s drawing, “Rio de Maiquetia,” (1852) shows his skillful use of simple pencil marks to create form and volume. He uses parallel lines, not only to create light and darkness, but to shape the planes of the rocks. Later, he used a similar technique in painting with oils, one that Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) later adopted and developed into his signature technique.

mountains drawing

Rio de Maiquetia, 1852, Private collection.

This early watercolor, “Bridge in Caracas” (1854), much more than a sketch, is a complete painting. Pissarro and Melbye may have made paintings like this to sell in their studio.

new bridge wc

Bridge in Caracas, 1854 National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

The painting, “Mountain landscape with a cabin,” (c. 1854) leaves no doubt as to Pissarro’s capabilities.  It may have been painted en plein air during one of the trips Pissarro and Melbye took with friends into the mountains that surround Caracas.

hut painting

Mountain landscape with a cabin, c. 1854, Private collection

In our minds, Pissarro has a bald head and a long white beard. But we forget that he was once young and had a full head of hair.  This self-portrait (1857-58) shows him as he must have been during his sojourn in Venezuela—a handsome young man looking earnestly at us with just a hint of a smile.

self=portrait early

Self-portrait, 1857-1858, National Museum of Art, Copenhagen

The value of this exhibition is that it reminds us of the artist Pissarro was before he became an Impressionist.  His work was quite advanced, and he was already experimenting with new ideas and techniques. This inventiveness is what he would carry with him throughout his life, creating some of the most intriguing and beautiful paintings of all time.

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 — A YOUNG ARTIST IN CARACAS

Market Scene on the Plaza Mayor, Caracas 1852-54   PDR 1 Presidential residence, La Casona, Caracas

Market Scene on the Plaza Mayor, Caracas
1852-54 PDR 1
Presidential residence, La Casona, Caracas

When Pissarro was 22 years old, he left the family home in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and went to Venezuela with his friend, Danish painter Fritz Melbye. The two artists opened a studio where they taught art and sold their paintings. This photo shows the artist dressed in a gaucho costume.

gaucho0001

Pissarro painted the “Market Scene on the Plaza Mayor, Caracas” (1852-54) when he was about 23 years old.  Obviously, he was already an accomplished artist. Painted in a highly realistic style, it shows the large market in the center of Caracas. (This is just the first of many market scenes to be painted by Pissarro during his lifetime.) This painting demonstrates Pissarro’s understanding of perspective. Details of the cathedral tower are visible In the background. In the middle ground is a woman carrying a jug on her head. The focal point is the man in the red poncho on the donkey.  The folds of his poncho and white pants are carefully modeled. His wide-brimmed hat casts a perfect shadow on his left shoulder.

Resting in the shade of a white canopy are two women, with their wares spread out beside them. Interestingly, the color of the canopy’s shadow is gray. Later in his Impressionist years, the artist would banish black from his palette and use blues and purples to paint shadows. The woman on the left is difficult to see in this reproduction of the painting, but there is a drawing Pissarro probably used as a preparatory work. It displays her beauty and Pissarro’s skill as a draughtsman at such an early age.

Drawing-young black woman seated

Just for good measure, here is a another painting made by the 24-year-old Pissarro. It was bought by his friend Melbye and was safe from the war’s destruction. During their stay in Venezuela, Melbye and Pissarro traveled into the mountains and stayed at a small village named Galipan, where Pissarro made drawings of the mountains, the tropical forests, and the people.

5 Hut in Galipan

Even before he was an Impressionist, Pissarro was a talented, proficient artist selling paintings and teaching art. When we group Pissarro with the Impressionists, we tend to forget that he was ten years older than the others. When the 24-year-old Pissarro made these paintings and drawings, Monet was just 14, beginning to draw. No wonder Pissarro led the way to Impressionism and beyond.

PISSARRO IN GERMANY

A Creek with Palm Trees 1856  PDR 16 National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

A Creek with Palm Trees
1856 PDR 16
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

This wonderful painting by Pissarro lives in Washington, DC., and I live just a train ride away in Philadelphia.  Yet I am going to see it for the first time in Germany at the exhibition, “Pissarro, Father of Impressionism,” at the Von der Heydt Museum in Wuppertal. It is rarely on view at NGA because they generally show a similar painting, “Two Women Chatting by the Sea,” (PDR 23) which is more familiar. Both were painted by Pissarro shortly after he left St. Thomas to live in France for the rest of his life to be an artist.

The Critical Catalogue (2005) tells us why Pissarro was still painting pictures of St. Thomas. His son, Ludovic-Rodo wrote that one of Pissarro’s friends was trying to sell them in the Lille area. At that time, pictures of exotic places were very popular in Europe.

1856 was almost 20 years before the First Impressionist  Exhibition, yet this painting has distinct characteristics of Impressionism. No wonder they called Pissarro the Father of Impressionism.  It is all about the light and the atmosphere.

Can’t wait to see this along with 60 other oil paintings and dozens of drawings by Pissarro next Thursday and Friday at Wuppertal, Germany.

ON A DAY LIKE TODAY, FRENCH PAINTER CAMILLE PISSARRO WAS BORN

archive-191

THIS ARTICLE APPEARED TODAY IN THE ART DAILY NEWSLETTER.

July 10, 1830.- Camille Pissarro (10 July 1830 – 13 November 1903) was a French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painter born on the island of St Thomas (now in the US Virgin Islands, but then in the Danish West Indies). His importance resides in his contributions to both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. Pissarro studied from great forerunners, including Gustave Courbet and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. He later studied and worked alongside Georges Seurat and Paul Signac when he took on the Neo-Impressionist style at the age of 54. In this image: An unidentified visitor looks at an impressionist painting by Camille Pissarro called the Rue Saint-Honore apre-midi, Rue Saint-Honore Afternoon, Rain Effect, in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, Thursday May 12, 2005.

The book PISSARRO’S PLACES is available in the bookstore of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.

 

 



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