Monday, February 17, 2014

Camille Pissarro: A Loving Tribute

I am in love with Camille Pissarro (1830-1903). I have been for a long time. No, not romantic love, more like the adoration of a child sitting at the feet of a wise and experienced father.

You can imagine my joy to find an exhibit in Barcelona of 67 of his paintings. 67! I moved up close to his paintings trying to find him in his colors, impasto and other techniques. (I think I drove the security guards crazy.) Steeped in the environment of his paintings, I thought about his amazing output, political courage and gentle, fatherly personality.

His work ethic was boundless. No matter what was happening in his personal life, he painted. He painted outdoors as much as possible and mostly without consideration to the weather. When he could not paint outside, he stood at the window and painted.

Even in later life, with his vision impaired from a recurring eye infection, he painted. His industriousness was enough to eventually support his large family. (Wife, 8 children and household help)

Art was central to him, yet  Pissarro was a well-read and informed man. He understood the original meaning of anarchy (without a monarch/leader). Although he believed in non-violence, his leftist leanings brought him to the attention of the police. It was very dangerous for Pissarro for he had known artist who were jailed for their leftist beliefs. (Trial of the Thirty, 1894)

Another reason I admire him is the consistent description of him by his contemporaries as "fatherly." Gauguin, who studied with him, referred to M. Pissarro as " of my masters and I would not deny him." Cezanne walked miles just to paint with Pissarro. Mary Cassatt referred to him as "a teacher who could have taught the stones to draw correctly." It was his " gentle, kind, and warm-hearted personality" that held the Impressionists together.

The Impressionist Group consisted of 15 artists - each different in personality and temperament from the others. Yet, it was Pissarro who held the group together. Not only would his legacy be his role as "Father of the Impressionists," but also as the creative force of children and grandchildren who followed him in art.

Most notable among his progeny are: His son, Lucien Pissarro, a famous printer, grandchildren Claude Bonin-Pissarro, Henri Bonin-Pissarro, and Orovida Pissarro, all painters, and great grandchilden, Frédéric Bonin-Pissarro, painter and Joachim Pissarro, Head of Curator of Drawing & Painting, MOMA as well as professor of art at Hunter College.

Here's a glimpse of his art - another reason I am in love with him. And what is your take on M. Pissarro?