Thursday, 27 June 2013

Pissarro in harbours - Rouen

Pissarro in harbours - Rouen

This is a series of posts on the “Pissarro in harbours” exhibition that runs until 29 September 2013 at the Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux (MuMa) – Le Havre, France. In the previous post, we looked at worksdone in Le Havre and we now turn to Rouen.

The Cours-la-Reine or Banks of the Seine in Rouen (1884) – Print by Camille Pissarro

Pissarro spent time in Rouen, capital of Normandy, in 1883, 1895 and 1896. He came first to Rouen on the advice of his friend Claude Monet whose brother lived in the town.


My dear Lucien,

I am hard at work, at least I work as much as the weather permits.— I began a work the motif of which is the river bank in the direction of St. Paul's Church. Looking towards Rouen I have before me all the houses on the quays lighted by the morning sun, in the background the stone bridge, to the left the island with its houses, factories, boats, launches, to the right a mass of pinnaces of all colors.
In the evening I work at Le Cours-la-Reine on the motif you know about.

Yesterday, not having the sun, I began another work on the same motif in grey weather, only I looked more to the right.

I must leave you for my motif. I have a room on the street. I shall start on a view of the street in fog for it has been foggy every morning until eleven o'clock—noon. It should be interesting, the square in the fog, the tramways, the goings and comings.

In 1883, Pissarro painted 18 works in Rouen.

Twelve year later, in 1895, Pissarro came back to Rouen and painted some watercolours and oil paintings. The changing weather is a challenge and he get into the habit of painting from his hotel room. This gives him some interesting vantage points.

Wood Being Unloaded Quai de la Bourse, Sunset – Oil on canvas by Camille Pissarro

The Quai de la Bourse, Rouen in the Rain – Oil on canvas by Camille Pissarro

The Cours-la-Reine, Rouen, in Morning Sunlight – Oil on Canvas by Camille Pissarro

My dear Lucien,

[…] Here the weather is always changing, it is very discouraging. I am working on nine canvases, all of which are more or less well advanced.

The day after your departure I started a new painting at Le Cours-la-Reine, in the afternoon in a glow of sun, and another in the morning by the water below St. Paul's Church. These two canvases are fairly well advanced, but I still need one session in fine weather without too much mist to give them a little firmness. Until now I have not been able to find the effect I want, I have even been forced to change the effect a bit, which is always dangerous. I have also an effect of fog, another, same effect, from my window, the same motif in the rain, several sketches in oils, done on the quays near the boats; the next day it was impossible to go on, everything was confused, the motifs no longer existed ; one has to realize them in a single session. Yesterday I began to work on a charming motif, a view from the balcony of a cafe facing Le Cours-la-Reine, unfortunately it is only a canvas of about 21 x 18 inches. I shall do it over again, at least I can finish it.

[…] I work at my window on rainy days, I think the paintings I do then are my best work; not easy to sell, however. It is raining now, I ram to my window.

Using the hotel room as his studio shelters the artist from the rain and wind. It also saves him carrying arount his easel, paint box and canvasses.

[ROUEN] APRIL 19, 1895

My dear Lucien,

I am in Rouen with Dario de Rigoyos. I am going to look for a hotel on the quay, for thus I will be able to make some carefully done paintings without too much risk or fatigue. Carrying canvases 36 x 28 inches in size is very difficult now that I am old, and I have no money.

It is clear that Pissarro (like Monet did) was working at the same time on several canvasses, switching between them to follow the change of atmosphere and weather conditions.

The exhibition of Claude Monet’s Cathedrals of Rouen series is probably what motivated Pissarro to come back to Rouen in 1896 and work himself on a series of coherent paintings.

Pissarro greatly admired the Cathedrals of Rouen series. Monet's exhibition opened in Paris on May 10, 1895, showing twenty Cathedrals of Rouen and forty canvases in all. Pissarro praised the aesthetic research Monet embarqued on with this series: “Cezanne, whom I met yesterday at Durand-Ruel's, is in complete agreement with my view that this is the work of a well balanced but impulsive artist who pursues the intangible nuances of effects that are realized by no other painter. Certain painters deny the necessity of this research, personally I find any research legitimate that is felt to such a point.” (Letter to Lucien, Paris, May 26, 1895)

Pissarro wrote a few days later to his son Lucien: “This is a great pity, for the Cathedrals are being much talked of, and highly praised, too, by Degas, Renoir, myself and others. I would have so liked you to see the whole series in a group, for I find in it the superb unity which I have been seeking for a long time.” (Paris, June 1, 1895)

Pissarro came back one last time to Rouen in 1896. Because of his eye illness, Pissarro had to work indoor. He changed several times hotels to get different motives.

The Pont Corneille, Rouen, in Morning Mist (1896) – Oil painting by Camille Pissarro.


My dear Lucien,

But I am not thirty years old now, I have to be satisfied with a hotel window. I went to look at the Hotel d'Angleterre on the harbour, it is admirably located but very expensive: 8 francs a day for a room on the fourth floor. This place is less favorable, but I pay only 5 francs for a nice room on the second floor and another on the third, above the entresol 5 the view is beautiful.


My dear Lucien,

My pictures are advancing. I have eight things going, I am waiting impatiently for snow. Monet's brother assured me that Depeaux would take some before I finish them. That would suit me fine, the problem is to finish them successfully. One canvas, View of the Bridge [950], is about 36 x 28 inches. The theme is the bridge near the Place de la Bourse with effects of rain, crowds of people coming and going, smoke from the boats, quays with cranes, workers in the foreground, and all this in grey colors glistening in the rain. Lecomte found it very fine. I have one of fog with sun, but these effects are infrequent.

The Pont Boieldieu, Rouen at Sunset with Smoke – Oil painting by Camille Pissarro


My dear Lucien,

[…] I have begun no less than a dozen pictures, six canvases of 36 x 28 inches, if you please, of the others one is 21 x 1 8 inches, one is a sketch which I gave to Monet's son Jean, whom I often see, and five are canvases of 25 x 21 inches. . . . I have effects of fog and mist, of rain, of the setting sun and of grey weather, motifs of bridges seen from every angle, quays with boats; but what interests me especially is a motif of the iron bridge in the wet, with much traffic, carriages, pedestrians, workers on the quays, boats, smoke, mist in the distance, the whole scene fraught with animation and life. The picture is fairly well advanced. I am waiting for a little rain to put it in order. I hope these pictures won't be too bad, for the moment I see only their defects; at times
I have fits of hope that they will be good.

ROUEN, MARCH 7, 1896

My dear Lucien,

My bridge is completed with its effects of wetness, it is quite interesting, I think. I wanted to render the animation of the hive that is the harbor of Rouen. I have a painting of the misty Pont Corneille which should be pretty good, a canvas 36 x 28 inches also. But I see them too often to know what they are like.


My dear Lucien,

I am in Rouen. From my hotel window I have a different view of the harbour than from that of the Hotel de Paris. I am letting my view of the landscape resolve itself. Sensations don't come all at once—I shall stroll a bit first.

View of Rouen (The Cours-la-Reine) – Print by Camille Pissarro


My dear Lucien,

I just dispatched to Eragny fifteen pictures, in which I tried to represent the movement, the life, the atmosphere of the harbor thronged with smoking ships, bridges, chimneys, sections of the city in the fog and mist, under the setting sun, etc. I think that what I have done is bolder than what I did last year. I had the luck to have boats with rose-colored, golden-yellow and black masts. One picture is colored like a Japanese print 5 that won't please the neocatholics… But at least I painted what I saw and felt; perhaps I am deceiving myself for the motifs are fleeting, they don't last more than one, two, three days…

Pissarro executed a total of 69 paintings and some important series prints in Rouen.

The exhibition at the MuMa – Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux – Le Havre

“Pissarro in the ports” exhibition
From 27 April to 29 September 2013
2 boulevard Clemenceau
76600 Le Havre

Related resources

Letters to his son Lucien by Camille Pissarro – Free eBook that you can read Read Online, as PDF, on ePub readers or on the Kindle

If you prefer to read the correspondence on paper:

Monday, 24 June 2013

Met Museum full text online publications

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York put online 372 titles, with full-text, from their past publications. You can read them online or download them as PDF.

I am endebted to Richard Byrne and his always interesting Free Technology For Teachers blog for pointing me to this amazing treasure trove.

Below is my personal and very suggestive selection. I encourage you to go the Met Online Publications  website and see for yourself the full catalogue. It will take me a while to read through these…

The Age of Caravaggio
Gregori, Mina, Luigi Salerno, and Richard E. Spear (1985)

American Impressionism and Realism: The Painting of Modern Life, 1885–1915
Weinberg, H. Barbara, Doreen Bolger, and David Park Curry (1994)

American Impressionist and Realist Paintings and Drawings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz
Howat, John K., and Dianne H. Pilgrim (1973)

American Painting in the Twentieth Century
Geldzahler, Henry (1965)

American Paradise: The World of the Hudson River School
Avery, Kevin J., Oswaldo Rodriguez Roque, John K. Howat, Doreen Bolger Burke, and Catherine Hoover Voorsanger (1987)

Art and Autoradiography: Insights into the Genesis of Paintings by Rembrandt, Van Dyck, and Vermeer
Ainsworth, Maryan Wynn, Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, John Brealey, and Pieter Meyers, with contributions by Karin Groen, Maurice J. Cotter, Lambertus van Zelst, and Edward V. Sayre (1982)

The Care and Handling of Art Objects: Practices in The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Shelley, Marjorie, with contributions by members of the curatorial and conservation departments of The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1987)

Constable's England
Reynolds, Graham (1983)

Degas: The Artist's Mind
Reff, Theodore (1976)

Edward Burne-Jones: Victorian Artist-Dreamer
Wildman, Stephen, and John Christian, with essays by Alan Crawford, and Laurence des Cars (1998)

Georges Seurat, 1859–1891
Herbert, Robert L., Françoise Cachin, Anne Distel, Susan Alyson Stein, and Gary Tinterow (1991)

The Great Wave: The Influence of Japanese Woodcuts on French Prints
Ives, Colta Feller (1974)

John Singer Sargent's Alpine Sketchbooks: A Young Artist's Perspective
Rubin, Stephen D. (1991)

Monet's Years at Giverny: Beyond Impressionism

Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Drawings and Prints
Orenstein, Nadine M., ed., with contributions by Nadine M. Orenstein, Manfred Sellink, Jürgen Müller, Michiel C. Plomp, Martin Royalton-Kisch, and Larry Silver (2001)

The Private Collection of Edgar Degas
Dumas, Ann, Colta Ives, Susan Alyson Stein, and Gary Tinterow, with contributions by Françoise Cachin, Caroline Durand-Ruel Godfroy, Richard Kendall, Mari Kálmán Meller, Juliet Wilson-Bareau, Rebecca A. Rabinow, Theodore Reff, and Barbara Stern Shapiro (1997)

Toulouse-Lautrec in The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Ives, Colta (1996)

Domínguez Ortiz, Antonio, Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez, and Julíán Gállego (1989)

Vermeer and the Delft School
Liedtke, Walter A., Michiel C. Plomp, and Axel Rüger, with contributions by Reinier Baarsen, Marten Jan Bok, Jan Daniël van Dam, James David Draper, Ebeltje Hartkamp-Jonxis, and Kees Kaldenbach (2001)

Vincent van Gogh: The Drawings
Ives, Colta, Susan Alyson Stein, Sjraar van Heugten, and Marije Vellekoop, with Marjorie Shelley (2005)

The Written Image: Japanese Calligraphy and Painting from the Sylvan Barnet and William Burto Collection
Murase, Miyeko, with contributions by Sylvan Barnet, William Burto, Karen L. Brock, Sondra Castile, Maxwell K. Hearn, Tadayuki Kasashima, Denise Patry Leidy, Masako Watanabe, and Yūji Yamashita (2002)

Baticle, Jeannine, with essays by Yves Bottineau, Jonathan Brown, and Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez (1988)

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Pissarro in harbours exhibition at MuMa – Le Havre

There is a special relationship between Camille Pissarro and Le Havre. The city was his first contact with France, when he arrived from the West Indies at the age of 11 and then, in 1885, when he moved to France to live and become an artist. Pissarro also spent his last summer in Le Havre, when he was 73 year old.

Entrance to Le Havre Harbour with West Breakwater in Morning Sunlight (1903) – Oil painting by Camille Pissarro

Le Havre City Council was the first and only French local authority to purchase his work. The city also had some private collectors who bought the artist’s works. In 1903, Van der Velde owned 10 works, Olivier Senn 3 paintings and Dusseuil one work.

In September 22, 1903, Camille Pissarro wrote to his son Lucien:

“I intend to leave towards the 26th of this month. I sold two pictures to the Museum and two to collectors. I am waiting for other collectors, but I am hardly besieged by demands!

I see that we are far from being understood—quite far—even by our friends.”

The Anse des Pilotes, Le Havre on a Sunny Morning with the Tide Coming in - Oil painting by Camille Pissarro

In 1903, Pissarro thought about going back to Dieppe, but Peter Van der Velde, a private collector, conveiced him to come to Le Havre instead.  Pissarro stayed at the Hotel Continental, which had a view on the harbour from three windows.

“Since things were so bad I was compelled to do a series which I thought would please my collectors: the Jetty at Le Havre, of which the people of the town are proud of and really it has character.” Letter from Camille to Lucien Pissarro (Le Havre, July 10, 1903)

The Anse des Pilotes and the East Breakwater, Le Havre - Oil painting by Camille Pissarro

The East Breakwater and the Fort de la Floride, Le Havre, Afternoon, Rainny Weather - Oil painting by Camille Pissarro

Study of Figures on Quayside – Pencil drawing by Camille Pissarro

Pissarro produced 24 works in Le Havre. He returned from Le Havre to Paris in September 1903. He fell ill and passed away piecefully on November 13, 1903.

The exhibition at the MuMa – Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux – Le Havre

“Pissarro in the ports” exhibition
From 27 April to 29 September 2013
2 boulevard Clemenceau
76600 Le Havre

Related resources

Letters to his son Lucien by Camille Pissarro – Free eBook that you can read Read Online, as PDF, on ePub readers or on the Kindle

If you prefer to read the correspondance on paper:

Monday, 10 June 2013

Our Lady's Basilica in Boulogne-sur-Mer

Our Lady's Basilica in Boulogne-sur-Mer - Ink and watercolour sketch by Benoit Philippe

Boulogne-sur-Mer Basilica can be seen from far away. It is in the heart of the medieval part of the city, at the top of a hill.

The inside is in desperate need of some restoration work. They have already started with the inside of the dome.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Studies of cows by Eugene Boudin

Eugene Boudin is well-known for his paintings of harbours and of people on the beach (at the time, fully dressed with ample dresses for ladies and hat and suits for men).

Boudin was born in Honfleur in a modest family and came to Le Havre aged 10. He worked with a framer and met artists like Millet this way. In 1851, the Municipal Council of the town granted him a 3-year bursary to further his art education in Paris. Until 1863, Boudin spent his time between Honfleur and Le Havre.

In 1900, Louis Boudin, the artist's brother, donated to Le Havre paintings from the artist's studio that he had inherited. These included numerous studies, in particular a series of studies of cows painted near the Saint-Simeon farm. Most of them are neither dated nor signed.

The studies have been hung in the museum densely, on a single wall - as if they were still in the artist's studio. This makes it more difficult to take good pictures of some of them.

The museum

Musée Malraux
2 boulevard Clemenceau
76600 LE HAVRE
Tel: 02 35 19 62 62
Malraux Museum in Le Havre

Related article and resources

Malraux Museum in Le Havre