Skip to main content

Pissarro


Pissarro Building, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

While on holidays on a cruise a few years back in the Caribbean I passed by this curious museum which, unfortunately was closed at the time and I couldn't return later much to my disappointment. Camille Pissarro was born and raised here on July 10, 1830, in this heaven-on-earth island, but he spent most of his adult life painting in Paris. Although not exactly a household name to many familiar with Impressionism, he was a huge influence and father figure to many artists of that era including Cezanne, Van Gogh, Seurat and Gauguin. What makes Pissarro cool is that he seems to get only better with age, and his urban landscapes are light years ahead of any painter in the genre.





The Boulevard Montmartre on a Winter Morning, 1897

A perfect snapshot of the era and a stunning painting, this kind of work seems remarkably simplistic up close but step back and it has a photographic realism to it. This is obviously true of all Impressionism, but in Pissarro's case it is his unique ability to capture architecture and bystanders with crisp brushstrokes and accurate attention to value. The whole composition has a feeling of movement, that the horse-drawn carriages appear to move towards our eye and away from us, and yet it is merely a simple view from a rooftop of a busy street. Look at the sky and you will see a very complex palette of yellows, blues, greys, whites, and even tints of green. Now look at the slick streets below, and we see even more intricate color combinations. Squint and it all looks flawless...this is a painter's painter, folks. His understanding of color rivals any of his contemporaries.





Orchard in Bloom, 1872

Again, Pissarro's acute depiction of color temperature and value immediately draw us into the painting. The sense of presence and peacefulness in this rural scene are an attribute of his own visual poetry at work. A remarkably cool palette, Pissarro combines strong diagonals of the trees with subtle but distinct horizontals in the middleground figures and vibrant green horizon line in the far distance. Look at the shadow of the tree on the dirt: it completes the painting, and would be a flat composition without it. If you look up close at the brushstrokes we see mottled yellow-greens and very cool whites on the the tree foliage of the main tree, while the ground is a mass of big earth-tone strokes. That small bit of green separating the field also defines the composition, and note how the shadow of the tree makes the green darker on the edge. Despite the haphazard-like brushwork there is a serious amount of observation going on here, and enough to not make it as rushed as this style might appear.




Entrée du village de Voisins, 1872

Color-wise we see the polar opposite of Orchard in Bloom above. Warm, late-afternoon sun with long green shadows of the trees raking across the foreground. Pissarro is playing around with complementary colours here in a musical sort of way, with the deep blue sky harmonizing the entire painting. Simplicity and poetry are his music, and this is a timeless art that remains fresh and vibrant, never cheesy or sentimental, but real. I encourage anyone wanting to truly experience Impressionism like this to find a museum and see it in person—it is a true pleasure.






Popular posts from this blog

More Old Master Drawings

There is nothing in all the world more beautiful or significant of the laws of the universe than the nude human body.
Robert Henri








Charles Louis Müller, A Standing Female Nude Leaning Against an Arch, ca.1864

Once again I decided to talk about some Old Master drawings and delve into the thinking behind how these drawings may have been created and the knowledge of the artist. In the above drawing by Müller, done in sanguine with white chalk highlights, the figure is drawn from a low view-point, with her body twisting toward her left side while resting on one knee. Note how Müller alternates the bent right leg with the bent left arm to create dynamic contrast. The right arm is also foreshortened and partially in shadow. Expressing power and femininity, this is a study that is Renaissance in spirit, even Mannerist, revealing the female nude as sculptural yet always graceful.







Anton Raphael Mengs, Seated male nude viewed from the back, 1755

One of several Academic nude studies by Mengs, this …

Guercino il Magnifico

Self-Portrait of the Artist holding a Palette, ca.1635


Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, known as Guercino was born on February 8, 1591 in Cento, a small city near Ferrara. He is one of the great masters of the Italian Baroque and poet of painters. Noted for his speed and efficiency, Guercino also worked in a number of mediums with equal passion whether ink, chalk, charcoal, or oils. His nickname, which means 'little cross-eyes' in Italian, derives in part from an apocryphal childhood accident where he supposedly awoke from a deep sleep as a child from a loud scream that caused his eyes to cross. Another story says something was thrown into his eyes. At any rate, he was self-taught as an artist from as early as nine years old and by his early teens was discovered by the eldest of the Carracci where he would spend some time at the Accademia Degli Incamminati before venturing out on his own. Despite his apparent 'handicap', his vision and talent would make him a giant that few…

Pompeo Batoni

Apollo and two Muses, 1719

Giant of the Rococo and early Neoclassicism, Pompeo Batoni was born on January 25, 1708 in Lucca, Italy. Immensely popular in his time, his name sadly is not commonly recognized today because like many Old Masters, his work is not defined by one or two singular masterpieces but by an oeuvre that is overall, incredible. Batoni is something of an anomaly in that he had the midas touch in every genre he worked in, whether portraiture, mythological, and biblical. He trained under a few painters, notably Sebastiano Conca yet he quickly fused his own style together by reinterpreting Classicism with his own vigor for dynamic posing, color and anatomy that he felt was lacking in many artists of the Rococo. His reputation as a portraitist in Rome was highly successful, particularly for many British patrons of the Grand Tour who had heard of Batoni by word of mouth and sought his genius.

In Apollo and two Muses above Batoni seems to conjure mythology and Classicism w…