With the same fervor as Monet and Van Gogh, Camille Pissarro has captured my imagination with his unique style and perspective. He is well known for making significant contributions to Impressionism and Post-Impressionism as he influenced the likes of Renoir, Cézanne, and Van Gogh. While his accomplishments are monumental, I find myself drawn to his work because of his emphasis on finding beauty in unexpected places. His focus on simple subjects, rather than ornate is refreshing and asks the viewer to look beyond the obvious.
Self-Portrait (1903), Camille Pissarro
In the National Gallery of London, I was mesmerized by a Pissarro painting, (The Côte des Bœufs at L’Hermitage, 1877), not only due to its sheer beauty, but the epiphany it brought. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been drawn to Impressionist painters, but I never fully understood why they effected me so deeply. Monet and Van Gogh always conjure an emotional bubble that often translates into inexplicable tears, while Renoir and Degas soothe the edges of my soul with their graceful images.
While sitting on a bench at the National Gallery and soaking in Pissarro’s brush strokes, I started to ask myself why Impressionism speaks to me with so much force. At first, I mused how Impressionist paintings seem to depict what the world looks like through the rain – my favorite kind of weather. Whether it be a field of flowers through a water-streamed window or the streets of Paris caught in a downpour, the scene is blurred and refracted. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that was just a small part of the puzzle. I strolled through the Impressionist wing of the museum, absorbing the likes of Monet, Renoir, and Seurat, until the answer slowly started to materialize.
These “blurry” paintings allow for imagination. Mood and atmosphere are created by the artist, but the individual viewer gets to decide the story and the minute details. Prior to Impressionism, the goal was to create as much realism as possible. The artist strived to portray everything with immaculate detail and gave the viewer little to do but look. While amazing accomplishments, (and really quite beautiful) there is no room to wonder. My creative spirit needs to play with the images I see and fill in the blanks.
Pissarro is often viewed as a father figure to Impressionism, so it seems fitting that one of his paintings should lead to a new understanding of my admiration for the genre. Below, I’ve put together a small slideshow that includes some of my favorite Pissarro paintings, including the painting that triggered my epiphany.
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Impressionists gave tradition a total make-over. Free will became part of each painting with as much emphasis as color and subject matter. The combination is intoxicating and explains why I lose myself so easily in the blurred edges of reality.
What kind of art speaks to you and why?
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All images courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
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