I finally took my sons to the Pissarro’s People exhibit at the Clark yesterday, now that all of the “planned” activities have ended for the summer (well, almost). Being an Impressionism enthusiast, I was not about to let this opportunity slip away.
Unfortunately, my boys did not share my enthusiasm, no matter how hard I tried to make correlations between the artist’s beliefs, paintings, and their world today. I must say I got as much out of the narrations placed beside groups of paintings and drawings as the paintings themselves. My younger son conveyed one of his political ideas, as he often does, en route to the museum. He wondered why all of the countries in the world couldn’t be just one and depend on each other for goods, services, etc. I tried to correlate his belief with Pissarro’s belief in a Utopia where we all worked diligently together. Apparently Pissarro was an Anarchist.
Many of his paintings, as with most Impressionism, blew me away. The most memorable one, only because of its size, was Apple Picking. This one, as did most of his paintings and drawings at this exhibit, depicted laborers working in the fields. He valued hard physical work and compared it to the brushstrokes of his own painting. This explains the straw sculptures one experiences on the exterior grounds of the museum before entering. The other memorable paintings were those that contained his ability to portray light in his works.
One learns more of his biography, such as his birthplace in St. Thomas, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands, his Jewish dissent, and his Danish citizenship, as well as his marriage to a Catholic woman with whom he had many children. Some of the paintings were of his children, and although he loved his wife, he preferred to use the maid or other laborers as models.
There weren’t many of the paintings I had researched before leaving for the exhibit, such as his works on the Avenue de L’Opera in Paris. I learned that these supposedly had very political undertones. As the website, http://blogs.princeton.edu/wri152-3/hsieh/archives/001795.html, indicates, these paintings, which I would have thought only depicted a busy Parisian arrondissement, actually depict political movement of ideas on the Dreyfus Affair at the turn of the century. Go figure.
Go See It!
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
225 South Street, Williamstown, MA 01267 413.458.2303
The exhibit runs June 12, 2011 – October 2, 2011
Interested? More details about the exhibition, and visitor’s information can be found here.