When this exhibit opened in June, I went to see it immediately because I adore Pissarro. He was an Impressionist, sometimes referred to as the "Father of Impressionism" and such, but to me, he was such an individual and I tend to think he should not be grouped with the rest of the Impressionists (fabu as they are...I'm just sayin'). He was close with Cezanne and his love of paint for paint's sake and geometry for geometry's sake and color for color's sake and optics and color "reality" are so obvious. His formalist tendencies are bare naked, despite the subject matter.
One of the first oil paintings I ever made was for my Father and it was a copy of a Pissarro landscape. It might still be in the basement or I might have thrown it out last year in a fit of trying to live a new life and not dwelling on the past. I'm scared to check. Anyway, I vividly remember making it. On my 12th birthday, my parents gave me a beautiful wooden paint box complete with a set of oils and round and flat white bristle brushes, plus an easel, jars of linseed oil and turpentine, a real artists apron with my initials on it and some stretched canvases. That's quite a gift for anyone, let alone a 12 year old girl. My parents always indulged my art, but that gift was extra special. All of it was piled in front of my bedroom door when I opened it my birthday morning. I believe I was so cool about it (being 12 and artistic) that I just climbed over everything and pretended not to notice for as long as I could...which wasn't very long. Even back then oil paint was oxygen.
Why or how I decided on that particular Pissarro landscape is a mystery. I used to look at tons of books and then show my parents and they'd tell me what they liked and asked if I thought I could copy it, so that's most likely where the idea came from. My Mother loved modern art and abstraction whereas my Dad liked landscapes and cityscapes. Knowing their personalities, I always thought it should be the other way round, but what do I know. Art is a mysterious thing. My Dad would also draw seven legged cats to make me laugh and my Mom would copy fashion drawings out of the newspaper with me. OK, I'm digressing again and I'm going to cry more. Let's get back to that lecture...
We all had to wear headphones because the curator's voice was so soft and there were over 100 people present...that's a lot and the museum staff was very happy. I enjoyed the enthusiasm the curator had regarding Pissarro's work and I did learn a few things about him personally that made me like him even more, such as:
- he preferred to live on the fringe of towns instead of in big cities
- he lived with his lover for 5 years and had two kids prior to their getting married because his family disapproved of the class of the woman he loved (I also admire his woman...screw societal expectations I say).
- when he was exhibiting salon style at the beginning of his career, he purposefully signed his name HUGE and painted on large than average canvases because he knew his work would be hung very high on the wall...good business smarts.
I bought a t-shirt emblazzened with a great quote attributed to Pissarro , "It is absurd to look for perfection." I also purchased this book at the museum store about the Paul R. Jones Collection , newly installed at the University of Delaware. A couple of years ago he spoke in Milwaukee and I didn't hear a single word he said because his mic didn't work and no one wanted to tell him to stop talking because he was on a roll. So, I was pleased to find this book and learn more about his collecting. It chronicles 40 years of his passion. Very cool.
Now, baseball on the radio and the Habitat door fabric in the sewing machine. Life goes on.