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  • Writer's pictureAnn Saul

PISSARRO in Paris and Pontoise–Three Exhibitions at Once

285 Hoarfrost copy

Hoar Frost, 1873


Market at Gisors

1184 Stairs at corner of garden, Eragny 1897

There is no way to prepare for this after years of traveling from Wuppertal, Germany to Sydney, Australia just to see the few Pissarro exhibitions that come up. Now in Paris and its suburbs, there are three Pissarro exhibitions at the same time—an unbelievable feast of works to study and admire. I saw all three in just three days. Overload of Pissarro is never a bad thing, but it leaves one speechless and unable to articulate very much about any of them. I will be seeing the two in Paris again, and I will write detailed reviews about all three in the coming weeks. But for now, a small sample of each one.

Pissarro at the Marmottan is a retrospective of Pissarro’s works, the first in some thirty-six years in Paris. It was elegantly curated by Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, co-author of the Pissarro catalogue raisonne (2005) and Christophe Duvivier, director of the two museums in Pontoise, the Tavet-Delacour and Camille Pissarro Museums. It charts the many innovations of Pissarro from his early days in Saint Thomas to his last paintings in Paris. The paintings chosen for the exhibition are masterworks, many of them familiar to Pissarro enthusiasts, but it also includes unfamiliar works, many of them from private collections. A large number of the paintings are from museums and collections in the United States and have not been seen in France for many decades. One painting from Australia was never exhibited in France. It was bought immediately after completion by art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel who took it to the US for an exhibition where it was sold. This is the first time it has been seen in France. Because of the Marmottan’s limited space, the exhibition is not huge, but the careful, knowledgeable choices make it extremely satisfying. A marvelous catalog in French and English includes beautiful reproductions and closeups of the paintings.

Pissarro in Pontoise, curated by Christophe Duvivier, displays a large collection of works on paper held by the Camille Pissarro Museum in Pontoise. This lovely town on the Oise River was home to Pissarro for two periods of time including about 16 years, and the paintings he made there are some of his most beloved. The exhibition, filling four large galleries, includes watercolors, etching, prints, and engravings from throughout his career. Some are of Pontoise sites, and others include works created at Rouen, Dieppe and Éragny. This exhibition shows many different kinds of innovations with which Pissarro experimented. The catalog has splendid reproductions of the works, and it is almost easier to see them because of the necessity of dim light in the galleries. However, there is no substitute for seeing the actual hand of the artist and his frequent hand-written notes on the edges.

Pissarro at the Luxembourg Museum in Paris, curated by Joachim Pissarro and Richard Brettell, focuses entirely on Pissarro’s works in Éragny-sur-Epte from 1884 until his death in 1903. Even though Pissarro went on painting tours to Paris, London, Rouen, Dieppe, and Le Havre during those years, he generally spent summers and some winters at his home in the tiny village of Éragny. The house, large enough for his growing family, came with a large garden, a barn (which he eventually turned into a studio), and meadows that stretched all the way to the beautiful little Epte river. Even so, the space is no bigger than that of a large suburban estate in the US. With such limitations, it seems that subject matter would be restricted. But the genius of Pissarro is that through composition, contrasts in weather and season, and amazing use of color, there is an astonishing variety of paintings. There are many fine examples of Pointillism, which Pissarro embraced around 1886. But later paintings show how he worked his way out of that technique and developed a new way of painting, even more intense than Impressionism. The catalog includes reproductions of the paintings and the many works on paper included in the exhibition. Unfortunately, it is presented only in French.

Watch this blog for more detailed reviews of each of these fine exhibitions. Each one deserves its own space. Now I’m off to Copenhagen, Denmark to see yet another Pissarro exhibition!

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