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  • Writer's pictureAnn Saul

PISSARRO at Musée d’Orsay

1434 The Loing Canal, Moret 1902

The Loing Canal, Moret, 1902, Musée d’Orsay, PDRS 1434

Pissarro painted this lovely summer scene during a visit to Moret in 1902. It was the third time he visited his son Georges in the small village a little more than 50 miles south of Paris. His first visit was in November 1899 when Georges settled there. His son wrote him: “You know, if you want to come to Moret to do some studies, there’s plenty of room, it’s a big house. . . .there’s a little raised garden on a rampart right on the edge of the river, with a lovely view of poplar trees reflected in the Loing. Without even leaving the garden we’re smack in the midst of wonderful motifs.” * While he made no paintings during that first visit, he returned in the spring of 1901 and made seven paintings.

The following year from mid-May to mid-June, Pissarro went back to Moret for a visit with Georges and made twelve paintings. For much of that visit, the weather according to Pissarro was “wretched,” but he made three interiors featuring people of the village. He took full advantage of good weather during the latter part of his visit, finishing nine landscapes, including this one. For this painting, he set his easel beside a canal near the Loing river built to facilitate barge traffic. This painting recalls the Impressionist tradition which Pissarro helped to establish in the early 1870s with its picturesque motif. The large trees on the left frame the picture with their branches creating reflections in the water. It almost seems like a remembrance of paintings by Alfred Sisley, the Impressionist painter who made his home in Moret for more than two decades and painted so many of its lovely views before his death in 1899.

1432 The Bridge and the Printing Plant, Moret 1902

The Bridge and the Printing Plant, Moret, 1902, Private collection, PDRS 1432

While Pissarro may have gone back to his Impressionist roots for that painting, he could not resist applying his abstract vision on others. The second painting, The Bridge and the Printing Plant, Moret, displays his advanced techniques. The buildings are simply blocks of color, totally flat with no apparent volume. The clouds are mere stabs of the paintbrush loaded with blue-grey or white paint. The trees are constructed of tiny diagonal strips in various shades of green. Instead of typical reflections, rough white brushstrokes streak across the water. Separating the white strokes is a narrow strip of yellow, there for no apparent reason other than that it is complementary to the lavender hue of the water. While the first painting of the canal is beautiful and a reminder of lovely summer days, this one is much more interesting than the one in the Orsay—and typical of Pissarro at his best in near abstract expression.

*Pissarro: Critical Catalogue (Joachim Pissarro and Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, 2005)


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