Tag Archives: Camille Pissarro

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.

Bonnard: Rooftops and Nostalgia for the Life of Others

8 Nov

“Nostalgia for the life of others. This is because, seen from the outside, another’s life forms a unit. Whereas ours, seen from the inside, seems broken up. We are still chasing after an illusion of unity.”

(Camus, Notebook IV (August/September, 1942)

Pierre Bonnard, Rooftops, 1897

The voyeur in me delights in these two paintings by a French Post-Impressionist painter Pierre Bonnard. Gazing at the building, or a house, on the other side of the road, counting all the windows and balconies, wondering what secrets do the fancy facade and flimsy curtains hide, is there anything that awakens more curiosity and longing both at once? Painting “Rooftops” isn’t that exciting on its own; it just shows a roof of some Parisian building, roof windows and a little bit of blue sky. The scene would be much more exciting if it showed a woman undressing at the window, a couple kissing, or a murder taking place, but with the aid of our imagination we can fantasise about anything taking place in one of those flats. When I see a painting like this, I couldn’t care less about the architecture! My mind instantly starts fantasising about the people living there. Who are they and are their lives more exciting than mine? What secrets do the windows of their flats hide? What are they thinking about when they gaze at the other side of street? Gazing at other people’s windows, at the houses on the other side of the street reminds me of something that a character played by Daniel Auteuil tells a sad young girl Adele, played by Vanessa Paradis, in the film “La fille sur le pont”: “I’m going to tell you a story. Long ago, I lived on the even side of the street, at number 22. I gazed at the houses across the street thinking that people were happier, their rooms sunnier, their parties more fun. But in fact their rooms were darker and smaller. And they too gazed across the street. Because we always think that luck is what we don’t have.” Naturally, I have no curiosity or envy for the lives of people I know well because I know that their lives are as banal and boring as mine, but the mysterious faces whose names I know not, oh they are the ones about whom I can weave fantasies and project all my yearning and envy on.

Pierre Bonnard, Rue Tholozé (Montmartre in the Rain), 1897

Another Bonnard’s painting “Montmartre in the Rain”, painted in the same year as the “Rooftops”, also shows the buildings on the other side of the street with their glowing yellow windows. Each window holds a secret and even though the windows with the lights on are captivating and vibrant, the windows left in the darkness are even more mysterious; who is there in the darkness, a sad poet sitting on his bed, or secret lovers whispering secret words into each other’s ear? Bonnard must have been on a very high floor, third or fourth perhaps, to capture the scene in that perspective. I love the way Bonnard captured the magical atmosphere of glowing yellow lights and the wet pavements after rain. The strollers in the street bellow look like black blots. In “Rooftops” and “Montmartre at Night” Bonnard painted a view on the buildings on the other side of the street, but what about the inside of the flat and the people who live in it? Another Bonnard’s painting “Woman at the Window (Among the Seamstresses)”, painted in 1895, and a lovely pastel by Pissarro “At the Window, rue des Trois Frères”, painted in 1878, offer a view on what goes inside the flats, what secrets are hidden behind the curtains and windows. I bet the little girl in Pissarro’s painting would rather be exploring the parks and streets outside her house than be sitting there above the book, I bet she is eager to feel the sun and wind on her face and to taste life and not just read about it. And those drab, gloomy probably underpaid seamstresses in Bonnard’s paintings, I bet they would rather be strolling around free, roaming the streets and not sewing the dresses for evening parties that they will never attend, touching the silk fabric that they will never get to wear. They must be gazing longingly at those free passers by and wondering where they are going? And thus the circle continues, there is always the illusion, as the title of Milan Kundera’s novel says, that life is elsewhere….

Camille Pissarro, At the Window, rue des Trois Frères, 1878, Pastel on cream wove pastel paper

Pierre Bonnard, Woman at the Window (Among the Seamstresses), c. 1895

City Scenes – Comparison: Impressionism and Expressionism

9 Sep

Diversities of people and cultures, sense of anonymity and optimistic yet fleeting feeling that everything is possible, along with vibrancy of the landscape are some of the things that attracted artists to European capitals. Specific mood and appearance of cities, in this case Paris and Berlin, affected artists who chose to either capture the city’s spirit on canvas, or express feelings which the city triggered.

The Boulevard Montmartre at NightCamille Pissarro, Montmartre Boulevard at Night, 1897

Although stylistically and atmospherically different, both paintings represent city scenes. Pissarro painted the ‘Montmartre Boulevard at Night’ in a true impressionistic manner with small and thin, yet visible brushstrokes, and created a sense of flickering excitement. On the other hand, painting ‘Nollendorfplatz’ is a good example of Kirchner’s typical wild, passionate, almost angry brushstrokes which are responsible for the overall feeling of dynamism. Elements on Pissarro’s painting such as carriages, trees and streetlamps make it an appealing one, specially for modern viewers and their visions of romantic Paris. Pissarro painted a lively and bustling Parisian night – lights are shining, carriages are arriving, people are having fun.

Kirchner’s painting radiates a completely different atmosphere. Starting with the unusual composition in a shape of an X, Kirchner creates a distorted and deformed space. Accentuated contour lines and dramatic choice of colours only deepen the unease a viewer can feel while looking at the painting. Elements that Kirchner chose to portray, Strassenbahns and tall, undefined buildings created a certain coldness and alienation. While Pissarro’s passers-by that occupy the pavement are barely visible, painted in soft and blurry shades of grey and purple, Kirchner’s characters resemble shadows, tall, black and deprived of any individuality, they stroll the streets of decadent Berlin, isolated from themselves and their surroundings, suffocated by the modern architecture around them. A suitable background for this painting would be the song ‘Kollaps’ by Einstürzende Neubauten.

Similarities between these two city scenes can be found in colours, but noticing this similarity again brings us to a great difference that is truly due to the art movements these two artworks belong to. Both Pissarro and Kirchner used blue and yellow in abundance. Whereas Pissarro’s blue is deep and soothing, Kirchner’s is cold, occasionally exceeding into shades of grey. Yellow that appears like a soft flickering light on Pissarro’s painting, on Kirchner’s painting it looks solid and exaggerated, its shade is almost sickly, at parts turning to bleak green shades, framed by solid brushstrokes of black. However, both paintings are ‘portraits’ of cities at a specific moment; vivacious Fin de siècle Paris and decadent catastrophic pre-Weimar Berlin. Still, as an Impressionist, Pissarro was interested in outward appearance and he captured the spirit of Paris at that specific moment, while Kirchner, as an Expressionist, presented us his own feelings and state of mind, using reality merely as an encouragement for expressing artistic experience.

1912. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - NollendorfplatzErnst Ludwig Kirchner, Nollendorfplatz, 1912

Impressionists – Profiles

23 Nov

Impressionism in a 19th century art movement that originated in Paris. It was considered radical at the time it appeared; vivid colours and sketch like appearance of the paintings was something completely new to the audience who was accustomed to more somber paintings exhibited at the Salon.

1870s Dancers - Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas (19 July 1834 – 27 September 1917)

PAINTING STYLE:

– asymmetrical composition (influence of Japonism)

– his portraits are known for their portrayal of human isolation and their psychological complexity

– off-center compositions, experiments with color and form

– his painting style shows admiration for the old masters and his admiration for Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres and Eugene Delacroix

– sense of movement is evident in his paintings

– ‘rich-colored realism’

PAINTING SUBJECTS: ballerinas, dancers, nudes, Parisian cafe scenes

FAMOUS WORKS:

The Bellelli family

Woman in the Bath

Stage Rehearsal

L’Absinthe

INTERESTING FACTS: he believed that ‘the artist must live alone, and his private life must remain unknown‘.

– known for his often cruel wit

1863.  Luncheon on the Grass by Manet small

Edouard Manet (23 January 1832 – 30 April 1883)

PAINTING STYLE:

-black outlining of figures (his work is considered as ‘early modern’)

– roughly painted style and photographic lighting

– composition reveals his study of the old masters such as Giorgione, Titian, Velazquez and Goya

– flatness; inspired by Japanese woodblock prints

PAINTING SUBJECTS: cafe scenes, paintings of social activities, Paris street scenes

FAMOUS WORKS:

The Luncheon on the Grass (1863.)

Olympia (1863.)

Young Flautist (1866.)

Music in the Tuileries (1862.)

The Railway (1872.)

INTERESTING FACTS:

– he often used Victorien Meuret as a model

– married his piano teacher, a Dutch lady Suzanne Leenhoff whom he used as a model as well

1872. Claude Monet- Impression, soleil levant

 

Claude Monet (14 November 1840 – 5 December 1926)

PAINTING STYLE:

– he used bright colours in dabs and dashes and squiggles of paint

– by painting landscapes he tried to capture the changing of light and the passing of the seasons

– he studied the effects of atmosphere

– due to his bad eye sight near the end of his life, he started painting with dots

PAINTING SUBJECTS: gardens and water lilies, women in garden or outdoors, river and boats, Rouen cathedral

FAMOUS WORKS:

Impression, Sunrise

Rouen Cathedral Series

London Parlament Series

Water lilies

INTERESTING FACTS:

– had a large family and married two times

1876. Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette - Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (25 February 1841 – 3 December 1919)

PAINTING STYLE:

– vibrant light and saturated colour

–  warm sensuality

– through freely brushed touches of color,  figures softly fuse with one another and their surroundings

– he admired the 18th century master Francois Boucher, as well as Raphael and Renaissance masters

PAINTING SUBJECTS: focus on people in intimate and candid compositions, female nude

FAMOUS WORKS:

Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880.)

Nude (1910.)

Bal du moulin de la Galette (1876.)

The Theatre Box (1874.)

Two Sisters (1881.)

1872. Berthe Morisot, The Cradle

Berthe Morisot (January 14, 1841 – March 2, 1895)

PAINTING STYLE:

– She worked in oil paint, watercolor, pastel, and produced sketches

– sense of space and depth through the use of color

– used white expansively in her paintings

– influenced by the color and expressive, confident brushwork of Fragonard

PAINTING SUBJECTS: domestic life and portraits in which she could use family and personal friends as models, including her daughter Julie, landscapes, portraits, garden settings and boating scenes, later nudes (avoided urban and street scenes)

– Her paintings reflect the 19th-century cultural restrictions of her class and gender

FAMOUS WORKS:

The Cradle (1872.)

Lady at her Toilette (1875.)

Reading (1873.)

INTERESTING FACTS:

– she was married to Edouard Manet’s brother Eugene with whom she had a daughter Julie

– she was the one who introduced plein-air technique to Manet, after Corot had shared it with her

1878. Self-portrait by Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt (May 22, 1844 – June 14, 1926)

PAINTING STYLE:

– while in Italy she studied works of Correggio and Parmigianino

– Under the influence of Impressionist, Cassatt revised her technique, composition, and use of color and light, manifesting her admiration for the works of the French savant garde, especially Degas and Manet

– soft colour palette and light backgrounds

PAINTING SUBJECTS: domestic life, portraits, mother-and-child subjects, opera scenes

FAMOUS WORKS:

Woman with a Pearl Necklace in a Loge (1879.)

In the Box (1879)

Self-portrait (1878.)

INTERESTING FACTS:

– she admired Degas and his pastels had left a deep impression on her

– she was very close with Degas and they shared similar tastes in art, music and literature, they had studied painting in Italy, came from affluent backgrounds, were independent and never married

1875. Les Raboteurs de parquet - Gustave Caillebotte

Gustave Caillebotte (19 August 1848 – 21 February 1894)

PAINTING STYLE:

– he painted in more realistic manner then the rest of the gruop

– influenced by Japanese prints and photography

– intense interest in perspective effects

– he used a soft impressionistic technique reminiscent of Renoir to convey the tranquil nature of the countryside, in sharp contrast to the flatter, smoother strokes of his urban paintings

PAINTING SUBJECTS: domestic and familial scenes, interiors, and portraits, urban Paris, still life paintings

FAMOUS WORKS:

Les raboteurs de parquet (1875.)

Paris Street, Rainy Day (1877.)

Rue Halévy, From the 6th Floor (1878.)

Nude Lying on a Couch (1873.)

INTERESTING FACTS:

– in addition to painting, he had many other interests including stamp collecting, orchid growing, yacht building and even textile design

– he was also a patron of art and an art collector

1897. Le Boulevard de Montmartre, Matinée de Printemps by Pissaro

Camille Pissarro (10 July 1830 – 13 November 1903)

PAINTING STYLE:

– The manner of painting was too sketchy and looked incomplete

– visible and expressive brushwork

– shadows painted in colour, rather than black or brown

– By the 1880s, Pissarro began to explore new themes and methods of painting – Neo-Impressionsm

– Pointillism (along with Seurat)

PAINTING SUBJECTS: mostly landscapes scenes, natural outdoor setting

FAMOUS WORKS:

Boulevard Montmartre la nuit (1898.)

La Place due Théâtre Français (1898.)

Boulevard Montmartre à Paris (1897.)

Un Carrefour à l’Hermitage, Pontoise (1876.)