Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pissarro Exhibit

In the New York Times: a review of an article and slide show about an exhibit of paintings by Pissarro: Populating the Landscape With Idealism.

Pissarro was a powerful influence on the Impressionists, but very much an outsider in France:
"He was born thousands of miles away from Europe in 1830, on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, then a Danish colony. His father was a dry-goods merchant from Bordeaux, his mother a Caribbean-born daughter of French parents. Both sides of the family were Sephardic Jews. Pissarro himself chose to remain a Danish citizen all his life.

"Even on St. Thomas his status was outside the norm. His parents were unmarried when he was born, bringing censure from Jews on the island. As a child he went to a local Moravian school with Afro-Caribbean children, where he spoke English instead of French."
He was also a political outsider, "deeply immersed in revolutionary politics, specifically in anarchist thinking that espoused a radically egalitarian, anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian society."

His attitude towards others was generous:
"Pissarro’s idealism was insistent. Because he wanted his projection of a better future to be realized, he tried to work it out in the present, through his own practice of ethical generosity, firm in the face of political censorship (he was closely watched by the French police because of his anarchist ties), anti-Semitism (he forgave this in Degas) and professional isolation as an artist who was neither born French nor had French citizenship...."
Above all, Pissarro was a fabulous artist. I've not seen the reviewed exhibit, but I love his paintings that I've seen in Paris, Chicago, and a number of other places.

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