Published: August 28, 2007
The Jewish Museum will present “Camille Pissarro: Impressions of City and Country” September 16⁆ebruary 3. This exhibition includes nearly 50 paintings and works on paper †drawn primarily from New York City-area private collections †many of which have rarely been on public view. The exhibition examines how the painter’s artistic theories and social convictions influenced his Impressionist and neo-Impressionist work.
A founding member of the Impressionists and a master of depicting urban life and rural settings, Camille Pissarro (1830‱903) was the only artist to show his paintings in all eight of the Impressionist exhibitions from 1874 to 1886, and the only Impressionist who was Jewish. Pissarro is celebrated for his Impressionist landscapes painted in and around the villages of the French countryside surrounding Paris. He also painted more cityscapes than any other Impressionist artist. Pissarro’s continual artistic experimentation revolutionized late Nineteenth Century art.
The artist espoused an anti-bourgeois, anarchist ideology and was passionate about the plight of the working classes.
Throughout his long career, Pissarro lived and worked in various villages in the French countryside, spent much time in Paris and traveled to England, Belgium and the Netherlands. Pissarro’s travels and his constant artistic experimentation reflect his ceaseless desire to seek out new motifs and explore new ideas in paint.
Although he himself never voyaged to the United States, Pissarro’s works were exhibited in New York City as early as 1883, and American collectors began buying his works during the artist’s lifetime. Today, some of the greatest Pissarro paintings are in American collections, with a large number in public and private collections in the New York City area.
Visitors to the exhibition will be able to see works spanning Pissarro’s career from his arrival in Paris in 1855 with subjects from his Caribbean homeland, to scenes of peasants working in the French countryside, and later works depicting Parisian bridges and boulevards. The Impressionist and neo-Impressionist landscapes and cityscapes presented in “Camille Pissarro: Impressions of City and Country” reveal the artist’s innovative techniques, his determined individualism and the links between his artistic and political ideas.
Born in 1830 on the Caribbean island of St Thomas, then part of the Danish Virgin Islands, Pissarro was raised in a Sephardic Jewish family from Bordeaux, France. He grew up in a bourgeois household and was sent to Paris at the age of 12 for a formal education and artistic training. Upon his return to St Thomas six years later, he was expected to work in the family mercantile business but, in an act of defiance, left to paint, first in Venezuela, and then to the center of the Nineteenth Century art world, Paris.
After his arrival in Paris in 1855, Pissarro studied with the renowned Barbizon landscapist Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and became influenced by the gritty realism of Gustave Courbet. He soon sought to escape the social and political pressures of Parisian life, including the art establishment embodied by the official Salon. By the 1860s, Pissarro and other modern painters became to explore the regions around Paris made newly accessible by railway.
Artists including Pissarro, Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley retreated to the rural villages and farms to paint outdoors, finding motifs in modern everyday life rather than in the historical and mythological subject matter favored by their predecessors and the judges of the official Salon, the annual juried exhibition that defined which artists gained recognition and became successful. Their early experimentations in light and color would eventually be associated with Impressionism. Pissarro was also interested in the utopian ideal of living and working in accord with nature.
For Pissarro, the country was a means to commune with the rural working class, at least on canvas, and to escape the conventions of city living.
The Jewish Museum is at 1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street. For information, www.thejewishmuseum.org or 212-423-3200.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm