Saturday, April 21, 2012

Art notes: Pissarro, Dufy, Caillebotte

Lately I've been studying the work of artists Pissarro, Dufy and Caillebotte. It turns out that Caillebotte is the creator of some of my favorite paintings, but I'd never realized they were all by the same person. I wasn't aware of the work by Pissarro, but kept running across mention of him as being a strong influence on many of his contemporaries, especially Gauguin and Cezanne (the latter is one of my favorite artists). I found his life interesting - his background and youth as well as his commitment to his family (in a time when fellow artists were quite negligent of their partners and children). Also, his sustained artistic focus and exploration was exciting to see. He stuck with his experiments and investigations - kept up a strong practice - in a way that I found to be reminiscent of Buddhist practitioners. Dufy was fascinating in how he started with a strong academic foundation and then devolved (in a good sense) to use looser rendering of images and refuse to limit color to a merely descriptive function (in his work it could convey all kinds of things: emotions, memories, etc.). Of course, this may not seem like much of an innovation now, but it was during the time period in which he worked. Indeed, he was criticized for not being serious enough. I have a more complex reaction to the art of Caillebotte. Much of his work leaves me cold, but there are three pieces that move me: Les raboteurs de parquet (workmen stripping the floor of a luxury Parisan apartment), a display of fruit and a view of snowy Parisian rooftops. Also, I appreciate his many paintings of people looking out windows and gazing over Paris. He painted at a time when the city architect Haussemann was tearing down large sections of medieval Paris and turning it into the more modern wide-boulevarded city that we know today. You can imagine that it took a great deal of looking to get used to this new place.

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