The summer doldrums are a good time to spend inside the National Gallery of Art, and today’s visit will feature impressionist artist Camille Pissarro. Using strokes loosely, somewhat like jotting with his brush, Pissarro built up a picture by using the very elements of structure, the image appearing from shades of paint that he laid onto canvas to build the picture.
The break with realistic portrayal had its effect in several ways, and public approval varied. His painting style…
…shocked and “horrified” the critics, who primarily appreciated only scenes portraying religious, historical, or mythological settings. They found fault with the Impressionist paintings on many grounds:
- The subject matter was considered “vulgar” and “commonplace,” with scenes of street people going about their everyday lives. Pissarro’s paintings, for instance, showed scenes of muddy, dirty, and unkempt settings;
- The manner of painting was too sketchy and looked incomplete, especially compared to the traditional styles of the period. The use of visible and expressive brushwork by all the artists was considered an insult to the craft of traditional artists, who often spent weeks on their work. Here, the paintings were often done in one sitting and the paints were applied wet-on-wet;
- The use of color by the Impressionists relied on new theories they developed, such as having shadows painted with the reflected light of surrounding, and often unseen, objects.
Pissarro is called by some the ‘Father of impressionism’, and given a place at the formative stage of this break from formal standards.
In 1885 he met Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, both of whom relied on a more “scientific” theory of painting by using very small patches of pure colors to create the illusion of blended colors and shading when viewed from a distance. Pissarro then spent the years from 1885 to 1888 practicing this more time-consuming and laborious technique, referred to as pointillism. The paintings that resulted were distinctly different from his Impressionist works
Later, Pissarro returned to earlier less strictly formulaic style, and continued to experiment through the rest of his career. His adventurous spirit made his place unique, and his heritage varied.
(Pictures courtesy of UGArdener at flickr.com.)