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Posts Tagged ‘Camille Pissaro’

:The Preserve

Normally I am not a fan of long phone conversations—except with our out-of-state family members.  But now and then I bend an ear with local good friends.  Although an in-person chat is preferred, there are times when we can only meet on the phone.

Speaker phone may be one of the 20th century’s greatest inventions.  I use it to keep my hands busy and my brain from going nuts while stuck on the phone.  Recently I banged off the above rendering, in the process of listening and also doing a significant share of the talking.

Three things can be noted:  1) The fact that the days are lengthening is evident in this little piece.  Gone is the snow (in my head; we still have snow on the ground).  From now on it will be flowers, land and waterscapes, or far out abstracts in COLOR minus snow.

2) The above painting was done primarily with a wooden knitting needle.  I picked up the idea of a stick from DVDs by British artist, Shirley Trevena.  She frequently uses a stick, culled from outdoors, to add detail to a painting—squiggly lines, dots, whatever.  Watching Shirley work with a stick gave me the knitting needle clue; knitting is another one of my passions, and I knit exclusively with wooden needles.  So I used the telephone time to dab away with a needle—and blotched a wet paintbrush over the tree top and background to finish off the job.

3)  In the world of “real art”, this painting would be considered a “sketch”—simply a precursor to a finished work which would take far more time than a phone conversation.

I spend a lot of time gazing at the work of well known artists in books that we have at home, plus library books.  I love the late 19th century and early twentieth eras of Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and Les Fauves (The Wild Beasts) who were considered revolutionary because they took wonderful liberties with color.  From my studying and reading, a favorite artist has emerged.  I am fascinated by and thoroughly enamored with the life and work of Camille Pissaro—a Danish citizen of Jewish Portuguese descent who was raised in the West Indies and settled in France.

Before reading about the life of this artist, I was wiped away by his work which largely portrays French country landscapes and scenes of country people—their life and labors—in a warm Impressionist vein.*  Actually learning about the man has made me love him.  His personality was one of stability and a love for family and friends.  A bit older than Monet, Degas, and other artists of his period, Pissaro was looked up to as a leader.  He was instrumental in organizing the shows of Les Refusées—those avant garde painters defying the traditional Paris art establishment which dictated standard themes:  Biblical, historical, or mythological accounts rendered in precise detail.  Many of the new artists were refused entrance in the annual exhibition of the Paris Salon—or Académie des Beaux-Arts—hence the name, “Les Refusées”.

The Impressionists broke with tradition not only by focusing on the subtle nuances of color, atmosphere, and the effects of light, but also by depicting scenes of everyday life rather than classic themes.  Whereas many of these artists painted gatherings in cafés or gardens, public events, boating parties, etc., Pissaro painted peasants at work planting, harvesting, carding wool, washing clothes in a stream, whatever.  Many of his paintings feature roads and undulating trees, and there is a gentle, graceful rhythm to his work.

His renderings are not idealized; there is no glossing over the reality of hard work.  Pissaro’s paintings display his compassion for working people, plus his belief in the dignity of time-honored rural life.  He realized that the countryside was on the cusp of change, that machinery would soon alter the French landscape, and he wanted to capture those vanishing moments of the 19th century.

Pissaro was a socialist at heart, in the best sense of the word, at a time and in a society where working people did not receive fair recompense for their labors.  But his political sentiments never spoiled the freshness and honesty of his paintings.  Perhaps there is nothing more potentially destructive to fine art than the blatant parading of a social or political agenda.  Pissaro was never guilty of that; he simply painted country landscapes and the people who lived and worked therein.

I cannot post a Pissaro print on this blog due to copyright restrictions, but do encourage anyone interested to GOOGLE “Camille Pissaro” and bask in the beauty of this artist’s work.  For fascinating insights into art and artists in late 19th century France, you can read Irving Stone’s biographical novel of Pissaro, THE DEPTHS OF GLORY.

Meanwhile as I wield a paintbrush or knitting needle, whether on speaker phone or in some quite corner, I know that my renderings are really “sketches”—and very “sketchy” at that.  But what a joy!

Margaret L. Been, January 2015

*Absorbed by the novelty of “Pontillism”—a kind of scientific theory of the breaking up of objects into colored dots which the eye then sees as a shaded whole—Pissaro painted in this style for a few years of his career, only to realize that the structure was confining and, for him, stylized.  Happily, he returned to the freedom and spontaneity of his former works.

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