Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), who is now considered to be the father of Impressionism, has the honour of being the subject of two exhibitions currently showing in Paris. The first at the Musée Marmottan Monet which I have already posted about, spans the entire of the artist’s career whereas the one at the Musée du Luxembourg is dedicated to the last twenty years of Pissarro’s life when he lived at Éragny, a rural village north of Paris. From his arrival in 1855 in Paris from Saint-Thomas in the Danish West Indies where he was born, Pissarro experienced constant upheaval so when his wife was expecting their eight child in 1883, he went in search of a new home. He found this in Éragny where he would remain until his death nearly 20 years later. Pissarro was very happy in the agricultural setting of Éragny and the property he settled in, afforded him uninterrupted views of the landscape that surrounded it. Pissarro loved to paint the scenes from this property and he never lost interest in his surroundings as they continued to offer him something new as the view before him changed according to the light or the season. He certainly seemed to capture the beautiful light of a snowy day in the painting ‘Effect of Snow at Éragny, the Road to Gisors’, 1885 from a private collection on display at the exhibition (see above). As the years went by, he incorporated more and more into his work, the labourers and locals from the surrounding area as can be seen from the three paintings below :
Haystacks, Evening, Éragny, 1893, Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, USA,
Woman Bathing her Feet in a Brook, 1895, Art Institute of Chicago, USA
Apple Picking at Éragny, Dallas Museum of Art, USA
Initially, Pissarro could only rent the property but in 1892, with the help of a loan from his longtime friend Claude Monet, he was able to purchase it. In fact, Éragny came to be as inspirational to Pissarro as Giverney became to Monet.
Pissarro’s time in Éragny confirmed that he was first and foremost an Impressionist. Pissarro had been instrumental in setting up the Impressionist group in 1873 and although he worked for a period whilst living in Éragny in the pointillist style (literally applying the paint in dots), he eventually returned to Impressionism, long after the Impressionist group had broken up in 1886. Pissarro considered himself the only true Impressionist. This Impressionist style is clearly in evidence in the painting above entitled ‘The Stairs, corner of a garden at Éragny’, 1897 on loan from Ordrupgaard Museum, Denmark, which is in fact Pissarro’s own garden at Éragny with his wife Julie in the foreground dressed in white.
And finally to my favourite painting in the exhibition ‘The Haystack, Sunset, Éragny’, 1895 from the Collection Joseph and Elizabeth Wilf, USA. It is not a particularly large painting but the light of the setting sun is exquisite turning an ordinary scene into an extraordinary one. Apparently Pissarro started painting haystack scenes in 1885 long before Monet commenced his famous series of Haystacks six years later at Giverney. This painting offers the best of Pissarro at Éragny, not only in the way it captures the effect of the setting sun, but also the way it depicts the world around him in Éragny with its orchards, haystacks and of course labourers.
A word on the museum: The Musée du Luxembourg is situated in the Jardin du Luxembourg and it has no permanent collection being simply an exhibition space run by the Réunion des Musées Nationaux and the Grand Palais. There is no café in the building itself but a branch of Angelina’s, the famous Parisian tea-house is adjacent to it (above left ). If you prefer something a little less formal there are a couple of options in the Jardin du Luxembourg itself where you can relax and absorb the exhibition after you have completed the tour ( above right being one such spot).