Camille Pissarro 

Impressionist Painter 1830-1903  

During the early stages of impressionism few Impressionist artist painted still life. They would rather paint a fleeting image or a captured candid moment. However, Camille Pissarro, being an early impressionist painter would create twenty two sill life paintings, including the one displayed here before painting “the world around him.” Here, we have a painting that may be considered to many art viewers as not impressionist, however, this painting exhibits an early technique of impressionist art; “Employing a palette knife to apply paint boldly in smooth, flat surfaces broken with sculptured areas of thick impasto.” Although this painting most definitely expresses emotion and impressionist painters did not “concern themselves with the invention of gestures deigned to communicate emotion” the technique would soon appear in future works by Pissarro and later impressionist painters. If you zoom in, you can grasp a sense of how thick the paint was, particularly if you look at the glass and pitcher filled half way with wine.
Near Sydenham Hill was one of Pissarro’s early landscape paintings. It renders the neighborhood and landscape in Lower Norwood (South of London) where Pissarro and his family lived in 1870. Pissarro was influenced by the works of Turner and Constable, whose art works depicted many landscapes painted freely with a loose brushstroke. You can see the early influence the two artists had on Pissarro, particularly in this painting. The trees, although slightly more detailed then Turner’s trees are large and lengthy. In a number of Turner’s paintings, trees are the main focus point and in this painting, Pissarro paints two large trees which take up 80% of the painting. The two trees cross over one another, creating an arch way as if welcoming the viewer to venture beyond the green grass and to the village in the distance. A cloud of smoke rolls out of a train in the bottom right corner, perhaps it is coming to pick up the small figure of a man in the distance. Impressionist painters were not focused on the subject nor were they focused on the “picturesque character of the specific location, but rather its atmospheric effects” (239). As years continued the coloring used in Pissarro’s paintings created more of a division, they became brighter and you can clearly see the “paint to canvas effect” (242). However, in this painting Pissarro puts colors directly next to each other to cease the illusion of light (for example paints two brown trees in front of a bright green lawn below a blue sky).
The spontaneity of a water color translates well into impressionism as both exhibit an impulsive and more direct method of painting. In this watercolor Pissarro paints the road leading into Loussian which appears in many of his paintings. Like other impressionist painters, Pissarro painted the landscape in which he was familiar with, he did not focus on a particular subject but paints to capture the time of day and season. The foliage on the ground, the carriage leaving the painting, the man walking away and the road suggest there is a passage of season from fall to winter. Pissarro captures a mood of life transitioning and perhaps becoming dormant.
In Pissarro’s painting The Factory at Pontoise, Pissaro captures “the reflection of light on the moving surface of the water” (239). Water scenes were very popular among impressionist painters and the ability to capture this effect was very important in their paintings. Pissarro appears to dab a variety of color next to each other, creating the illusion of wholeness but as we look closer at the painting, we can see the division of color and brushstroke. The red roof, specks of yellow and a bright reflection on the water suggests a warm summer day. Compositionally, Pissarro leads his viewers into the painting through the diagonal line that helps shape the river and the horizontal line 1/4 above the river creates harmony. The vertical lines of the chimneys also adds variety to an otherwise horizontal painting.
The Oise near Pontoise in Grey Weather is a different perspective of the same river as in The Factory at Pontoise. Pissarro and other impressionist artists painted the same setting or subject from different perspectives, time of day and seasons. Unlike the other painting which is focused on the reflections of light on the river, this painting is focused on the mood of the sky. Pissarro captures the atmospheric conditions of an overcast day using muted blues. Pissarro also captures the truth of the day by using natural light as well as the atmosphere. Like other impressionist painters they wished to paint in plain air to express the fleeting moments of reality. Pissarro paints very loosely in this painting, you can see the individual brush strokes of one shade of blue next to the other. The figures are suggestive, a man and woman walking hand and hand, another man on horseback. The figures are part of the landscape but they are no more important then the trees, the wall, the road, and the river. Unlike the previous painting which had one diagonal and horizontal, this painting has many diagonal lines, making the painting rather dynamic.
In 1880 Pissarro leaves Paris and travels to the French country side. He was one of first impressionist painters who felt the country side was worthy of being painted. The Harvest idealized peasants working in a pasture. “Since Millet, no one else has ever observed and depicted peasants with this forceful vigor and precise and personal vision” (Pissarro/Degas). Degas once said “Pissarro’s peasants look like angels on their way to the market” (Pissarro/Degas). This statement could not be more true, particularly in this painting. Pissarro’s peasants are large and beautiful, they take up the majority of space and as a result the landscape and other figures in the background appear to be tiny and unimportant. “The brushstroke shows great delicacy and attention paid to the complementarity of colors. Pissarro attempted to produce a gentler, more graceful and delicate painting” (Impressionists, 154). He breaks from tradition and no longer portrays the typical impressionist scenery nor brush stroke but keeps the impressionist colors. The Harvest is a perfect example of one of Pissarro’s works which shows the Japanese influence of asymmetrical shapes and bright colors.
La Port pres de douanne a Rouen is one of many prints created by Pissarro in the early 1800’s. The prints were to be added into a booklet called Jour et la Nuit, which translates to “will have no text.” The prints done by Pissarro along with 5 other renowned painters; Degas, Cassat, Forain, Rouart and Bracquemond, all of which “were close to Impressionism to one extent or another” (Pissarro/Degas, 153) would be included in the booklet as well. The publication of these prints would have formally introduced the technique of impressionism to the public, however, Degas was unable to pull his works together in time and the book was never created. Pissarro, along with other early impressionist painters would have to figure out another way to capture the attention of art lovers and “tale the movement in new directions” (Pissarro/Degas, 153). In this particular print, Pissarro illustrates a technique of short pencil etching, which later would flows into the impressionist style; short brush strokes applied to canvas. The print captures the candid moment of daily life at the port.
This painting shows Pissarroʼs close relationship with George Seurat during the late 1880ʼs. One can see the influence of pointillism in this painting. Forms are created by applying small dabs of color on the canvas. Up close, the viewer can see the broken spots of color, but from a distance, it appears blended. The surface of this painting is highly worked and Pissarro appears to have used a generous amount of paint. He used contrasting colors to create energy making the painting dynamic. The painting is mostly green, blue, yellow punctuated by red in the apples and womenʼs clothing. Red is the contrasting color; without it, the painting would be missing an essential element. During this period of Neo-classicism, Pissarro peasant paintings are carefully composed rather than painted spontaneously from observation. Some art critics believe that Pissarro was depicting his views of an ideal society where people worked communally. His peasants are idealized, happy to be gathering apples.
In this painting, Pissarro fully embraces the technical style of pointillism. The painting is created by using thousands of little strokes of color that only unite when the viewer steps away from the painting. Pissarro creates a poetic image of a peasant walking home after a days work in the fields. His brushwork is tight and the colors are luminous. The play of light and shadow is dramatic. The brushstrokes are energetic and quick, yet the painting is harmonious. The painting is mostly greens and blues, interspersed with reds. The color is intense and pure in itʼs simplicity (red, green, blue and yellow).
This painting strongly exemplifies impressionism. The impressionist were not focused on color harmonization. They broke up colors on the canvas, making paintings dynamic. In this painting there is a strong divide between three bright colors; the green of the grass, the orange/red in the trees and the blue of the sky. Although some of the colors may overlap they contrast with one another to create energy (using green next to red for example, these colors are opposite on the color wheel). To capture the illusion of light, Pissarro puts the color of paint directly onto the canvas. If you look closely you can see the short, thick, brushstrokes used to create the image of trees, which take up more then 90 % of the painting.
This next painting by Pissarro is similar to the last painting. It takes place in the same setting, however the painting before depicted nature in fall and the painting here illustrates the trees and atmosphere of winter. It was not uncommon for impressionist painters to paint the same setting multiple times in different atmospheric conditions, for example relating to weather and season. The figure of the woman carrying the two pans (perhaps she is going to sap the trees) is no more important then any other element in the painting.
This painting is a birds eye view of the city painted from Pissarroʼs apartment. Pissarro often uses a diagonal path to carry the viewer into the painting. In the case, he uses the massive bridge; in other paintings, he uses roads, rivers or paths to achieve the same objective. Pissarroʼs painting of Pont -Neuf, depicts a looser brush work that was more characteristic of his earlier work; however, he is also incorporating the skills he acquired from expressionism and pointillism into the painting.
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