Paris Loves Pissarro – 2 of 3
La Maison Delafolie a Éragny, Soleil Couchant 1885 Musée d’Orsay, Paris PDRS 800
The Pissarro exhibition at the Musée Luxembourg in Paris is totally different from the one at the Marmottan. “Pissarro in Éragny” focuses only on the paintings the artist did in the last two decades of his life at his rural home on the edge of Normandy.
Pissarro had lived in Pontoise for many years, but it became too expensive for his large family. After a long search, he found a big house on a generous plot of land in the tiny village of Éragny (it is still a tiny village, but now has one stop light to slow the large trucks who used to speed through the main street).
Eventually, Pissarro and his wife Julie bought the house, and he transformed the large barn into a studio. Many of the paintings in this exhibition were made from one of the windows in this studio.
This is the only group of Pissarro’s works that had not been studied before now. The narrow focus of these paintings displays the genius of Pissarro in that he could look at scenes so familiar and still see new visions.
When Pissarro moved to Éragny in 1884, he did not know Seurat and had not yet begun his experiments with Pointillism. But he had been studying the books of color written by Chevreul and the American Ogden Rood. His paintings show that he was already practicing a form of color division. In “La Maison Delafolie a Éragny, Soleil Couchant (1885). he uses several different colors to depict the haystack and the side of the building, as well as the patch of grass and the road.
Detail PDRS 800
After learning how Seurat had formalized color division into a system called Pointillism, Pissarro enthusiastically began experimenting with the technique. In “Paysannes Ramassant des Herbs, Éragny,” (1886) he uses thousands of tiny dots, placing contrasting colors side by side—colors that would mix in the viewer’s eye to produce the desired hue. This particular painting is interesting in that Pissarro uses the fields and the lines of trees to outline the geometric aspects on the canvas. The lines and angles contrast with the curves and puffiness of the clouds in the sky.
Paysannes Ramassant des Herbes, Éragny 1886 Private collection PDRS 830
In “Gelée Blanche, Jeune Paysanne Faisant de Feu” (1888), Pissarro shows just how much can be done with the tiny dots, especially in the fire and smoke as they blend together to create color and form.
Gelée Blanche, Jeune Paysanne Faisant du Feu 1888 Musée d’Orsay, Paris PDRS 857
Detail PDRS 857
After a few years, Pissarro abandoned Pointillism because it took so long to produce a finished work and because he missed the spontaneity of his earlier style of painting. Instead, he developed a larger brushstroke which he frequently produced in a series of cross-hatches, but he retained the color division that he had developed before his experiments with Pointillism.
Pissarro used the passing seasons and the weather to create new views of the land around Éragny. In “Effet de neige a Éragny” (1894), he allows the snow to define the geometric outline of the meadow. The crooked fence and line of trees make diagonals from the left corner and form angles with the horizontal fence and line of trees. In the muted colors of late autumn, he uses light orange to emphasize the angle. The droopy tree on the right lends some curves to what is otherwise a study in lines.
Niege, Soleil, Couchant, Eragny 1894 New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA PDRS 1021
In one of my personal favorites of the entire exhibition, “Femmes Dans un Clos, Printemps, Temps Gris, Eragny” (1895) Pissarro layers two of his favorite techniques. In the very back is a line of trees forming a screen. Over it he places the curvy limbs of a blooming fruit tree which adds another screen to the existing trees. In the foreground, he places rows of plowed earth in straight lines, which are mirrored right above them by the straight fence rows. The composition is so complex and so interesting that you almost fail to see the two women working in the field on the right.
Femmes dans un Clos, Printemps, Temps Gris, Eragny 1895 Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada PDRS 1075
This exhibition on Pissarro’s Érany paintings provides a clearer understanding of his passage through Pointillism to a new way of painting that allowed him to express his own “sensations” and create new ways of looking at paint on canvas. The exhibition runs until July 23.