A Second Chance For A First Impressionist

Camille_Pissarro_023

In an interview about a new exhibit of Camille Pissarro’s paintings at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, Guillermo Solana explains the distinctive style of the frequently overshadowed Impressionist:

We are used to this image of Impressionism as linked to water. The surface of water is a perfect metaphor for that which an Impressionist painter wants to get onto the canvas. He wants to mimic that moving surface of broken colour reflections. Monet, Renoir, Sisley, all of them pretty much focused on the water. Water is everywhere in Monet’s painting, with the River Seine, the coast, the sea at Normandy, etc.

Pissarro is basically a painter of earth, of the hills, of the fields. That’s an aspect of Impressionism we were not aware of. Pissarro is a strange, almost a unique case, because he was not interested in water until his last years when he went to Normandy to paint harbour landscapes.

We are also used to identifying Impressionism with Monet’s personality. Monet was a painter focused on la vie parisienne, on bourgeois people, ladies and gentlemen walking around, strolling through the gardens and parks or the countryside. Pissarro on the other hand was a painter focused on the peasantry, the life of country people. He had this different approach to the country and to the landscape, not just as a leisure space but as a space for hard labour.

(Image: Pissarro’s “Landscape at Pontoise,” 1874, via Wikimedia Commons)