Pissarro at Musee Marmottan

 

Camille Pissarro, the First Impressionist,” at the Musée Marmottan Monet, is the artist’s first retrospective exhibit in Paris in forty years, and a joy to behold. The sixty masterpieces on view come from major museums and private collections around the world.

The show traces Pissarro’s technical evolution, from his early work, depicting the island of his youth in the Danish West Indies (now the US Virgin Islands), to his plein air studies of the French countryside, for which he is best known, and eventually his urban vistas of Rouen, Le Havre and Paris.

As his career progressed, Pissarro’s landscapes shifted from mostly dark tones to the Impressionist palette that he developed with contemporaries Cézanne, Monet, Manet, Renoir, and Degas. These works, prioritizing light over detail, are wondrously fresh and invigorating nearly a century and a half later.

Said one art critic of Pissarro’s revelatory color choices: “Try to make M. Pissarro understand that trees are not violet, that sky is not the color of fresh butter …”

But the show celebrates much more than landscape. Throughout his career, Pissarro took a profound interest in the relationship of people to their environments.

Two Women Chatting by the Sea,” an early work, exemplifies both high technical quality and the depth of the artist’s regard for humanity.

Have you seen this exhibit? What did you think?