Camille Pissarro – Impressions of Parisian Streets

27 Nov

Camille Pissarro, Rue Saint Lazare, 1893

Pissarro is a somewhat neglected Impressionist and understandably so; his private life wasn’t rife with scandals and excesses, and his art wasn’t scandalous and fleshy either. It’s easy to see why the dandyish Monet, Degas; the painter of ballerinas, or Renoir with his pretty girls are more popular, but Pissarro’s oeuvre shows both steadiness and experimentation. Pissarro lived in the countryside most of his life and thus most of his paintings are scenes from the countryside. Still, due to health reasons, he moved to Paris near the end of his life and there he continued paintings plein air but his motifs weren’t the meadows, trees and haystacks of his beloved countryside, but the bustling streets of a big city. These delightful urban landscapes are the crown of Pissarro’s painterly career. These paintings remind me of that wonderful feeling; when you find yourself in the midst of a bustling city, on a square or walking on the pavements, and suddenly feel yourself detaching from all the noise and bustle, and simply observing it all. Seeing the people, walking fast or walking slow, cars and trams gliding down the streets, show windows and neon shop signs.

I named this post the “Impressions of Parisian Streets” because this series of paintings that Pissarro had painted throughout the winter of 1897/1898 marks not only the end of Pissarro’s oeuvre but also his final return to a more free, sketchy Impressionist style after he spent a few years flirting with pointillism and learning from Signac and Seurat. These urban landscapes are Pissarro’s “impressions” of the streets he saw from the window of the hotel in the place du Théâtre Français. Seen from afar, these impressions of Parisian streets look like a vibrant and bustling place, but if you look at the paintings from up close you see that the carriages, trees and people have all turned into blurry dots, dashes and dabs of colours. The Impressionist desire to paint plein air and to paint the real world around them reminds me so much of sociology because both basically observed society and world around them. Pissarro basically sketched what he saw in these urban scenes, and even though the style is very free and subjective, he pretty much portrayed the objective truth that was before his eyes.

Camille Pissarro, La Place due Théâtre Français, 1898

Camille Pissarro, Rue Saint-Honoré in the Afternoon, Effect of rain, 1897

Camille Pissarro, Boulevard Montmartre, 1897

Camille Pissarro, Place du Théâtre Français, Paris – Rain, 1898

Camille Pissarro, Boulevard Montmartre, Morning Mist, 1897

Claude Monet, Boulevard des Capucines, 1873-74

I also decided to include this painting by Monet just because it’s so beautiful and captures the same motif.

6 Responses to “Camille Pissarro – Impressions of Parisian Streets”

  1. Upside-down Land 27th Nov 2020 at 4:58 pm #

    Thanks for reminding me of Pissarro’s Paris cityscapes. They are indeed a delight. Back in the late 90s and early aughts I visited Japan several times as I co-managed funds from several Japanese companies. For some reason there was a tradition of these discussions being somewhat inhospitable. Not only was I never offered coffee or tea, but not even water. The conference rooms we met in tended to contain hot, stuffy air. One time, as was usual, I was delivered to the conference and left there to wait for my hosts. A small artwork caught my eye and I rose and walked to it. The frame was dusty and it was hanging at an angle. The work was a signed Pissarro. I straightened the frame and enjoyed it from close up. You may recall that during the 80s, when the Japanese were purportedly taking over the world, they went on a buying binge of American buildings and European art. Likely this Pissarro was from that era.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Byron's Muse 28th Nov 2020 at 6:54 pm #

      That’s a most interesting story! Out of all the places and occasions to see the Pissarro painting… wow. I like your curiosity. I bet a lot of people would just sit there not even noticing what’s on the wall, or maybe that’s just today because everyone’s on their phones all time.


  2. Michael Hill 27th Nov 2020 at 5:07 pm #

    That Monet is a dream !

    Liked by 1 person

  3. smilla72 29th Nov 2020 at 11:11 am #

    Hi Byron’s muse. Thanks so much for this beautiful post with those stunning paintings! I live two hours high-speed-train away from Paris but unfortunately couldn’t go there this year. But I was in the Louvre last year. There are many impressionist paintings in the Louvre too, not only in the Musée d’Orsay. Pissarro is indeed not as « popular » as Monet or Renoir but he was an impressionist from head to toe, contrary to other painters like Gauguin or Toulouse-Lautrec who were not real impressionists. I like Alfred Sisley also very much. Pissarro influenced his friend Cézanne very much and Cézanne said that Pissarro was the painter who got closer to nature than any other painter. And he said about Pissarro: « He was humble and great, for me he was like Godfather. »

    Liked by 1 person

    • Byron's Muse 29th Nov 2020 at 9:08 pm #

      Thank you for your comment. I am glad you enjoyed the paintings and I’m glad we both agree that Pissarro is underrated. Well Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec were Post-Impressionists, so they can’t be compared to Pissarro. Pissarro does strike me as humble and really devoted to art.


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