Joyce Glasser reviews Pizarro: The Father of Impressionism (in some cinemas only from May 24, 2022) U, 94 minutes. You can find a show near you by following this link.

The “Exhibition on Screen” series is sent to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, and to the Museum of Art in Basel, Switzerland, where the life and art of Camille Pizarro are celebrated in a happy collaboration.

The Basel exhibition is over, but can still be seen Scribe: the father of Impressionism in Oxford until June 12 and you won’t want to miss it. This is not a retrospective: positive paintings from the time of the young artist in Caracas, Venezuela; London paintings during the Commune of 1870-71 and a visit in 1890, as well as his first “commercial paintings”, the late urban landscapes of Rouen and Paris, are missing or lacking.

But we are reaping the fruits of Ashmol’s best-kept secret. In 1952, the English widow of Lucien Pisar’s eldest son, with whom Lucien ran the Eragny Press in England, donated the scribe’s archive to Ashmolyan. And that makes this exhibition special. The archive contains several paintings, 800 letters and works by the whole family, including a fascinating 1900 drawing by Georges Pizarro. Rightly so Impressionist picnic, a humorous drawing shows Armand Guillaume, Pizarro and Gauguin enjoying Madame Pizarro’s cooking while Cezanne working on the landscape. The archive contains hundreds of Pastel’s pastels, drawings, dry needles and aquatints, etchings and engravings, including a brilliant portrait of Cezanne.

After all, Pizarro was, according to Claire Durand-Ruel, whose famous ancestor was a supporter and merchant of Pizarro all his life, the most universal of all the Impressionists. Versatile not only in the use of all means, but also in changing the style of oil painting. It began with the style of the Barbizon School; facilitated his touch and palette with rural impressionism and became interested in post-impressionism – even pointillism (View from my window Eragni, 1886) – to return to the strengthened impressionism in the last decade of the life, approximately in 1893-1903. Because of an eye abscess he was forced to paint indoors for the first time, and the views of his hotels on the bustling cities of Rouen and Paris sold so well that he could provide for his family after his death.

While the focus of the exhibition is this rich family archive, an exhibition and a film by David Bickerstaff (co-authored with producer Phil Grabski), give us an intimate portrait of this inspired artist. We see him as a great friend; a family man who, unfortunately for his long-suffering wife, unfortunately for Julie, encouraged all his children to live in art; a companion in the paintings of Monet, Cezanne, Gauguin, and even Van Gogh; networker, anarchist, restless experimenter and innovator.

Drive away thoughts of a loner, self-obsessed, suffering artist. According to seven eloquent and compelling experts who appear on screen, Pizarro was charismatic; with an open heart and an open mind, and, according to Colin Harrison of Ashmolean, “devoted to his family, original, very curious and completely honest – a symbol of honesty and integrity.” The famous writer and art critic Emil Zola wrote in 1868 that “a beautiful painting by this artist is the work of an honest man.” I can’t give a better definition of his talent. “

But what about the claim to be the father of Impressionism? It’s not just that with his long patriarchal beard he looked important. Camille Pizarro was the driving force of the Impressionist movement and was responsible for its longevity. Paul Cézanne wrote: “Everything we do, we have learned from the Scribe. He really was the first Impressionist. “

After all, although this was a brazen remark by a critic about Monet’s painting, Impression, sunrise which gave the name to the movement, namely Pizarro, fed up with the hierarchical, bourgeois system of salons, where his work sank imperceptibly, led the creation of a registered company of independent artists (which included Mademoiselle Bertha Marisot). The first of the eight “Impressionist Exhibitions” from 1874 to 1886 was held in the studio of fat-nouveau photographer Nadar on the Boulevard of the Capuchins, 9. Pizarro was the only artist who performed in all eight.

His Impressionism, however, was never focused on bourgeois tastes or the needs of merchants. Instead of focusing on the activities of the bourgeoisie (ballet, opera, racetrack, cafes, beautiful gardens) and the industrialization of Paris (bridges, train stations, chimneys), as did Manet, Sisley, Manet, Renoir and post-Impressionists such as Sera and Signac , Pizarro painted the working class in the countryside (Père Melon sawing wood1879) and marketsPork Butcher, 1883). He was not as great a portraitist as Cézanne and Renoir, although there are some exciting family and self-portraits on display. Most of the people in his paintings are women, but he does not show their femininity, or women who do housework and parenting. Pisar women work hard on the street.

Pizarro was born on July 10, 1830 in Charlotte Amalie on the island of St. Thomas in the (then) Dutch West Indies to a family of Jewish parents of Sephardic descent, although Camilla had no religious upbringing. His father moved there to take over his uncle’s technique and then caused a resonance, marrying his uncle’s widow. Forty-one years later, Camilla challenged her parents by marrying (during their two years in London to avoid the Franco-Prussian War) a former servant of her parents, a French Catholic peasant. Sewing Julie Pizarro, The Red House, Pantoise1877).

Camilla knew what he needed. Julie’s ability to run a household for very little money, to come to terms with Camilla’s extreme poverty and nomadic life, and to raise their children – three of whom died before the age of 10 – allowed him to draw. Julie was even smart enough to borrow money from Monet behind her husband’s back to buy a house they were renting in Erani, with a large garden that the family loved.

Scribe: the father of Impressionism can go where the exhibition does not take place or can not be: provides us with a detailed and rich biographical film and shows works of art that are not in the exhibition. Thanks to experts, we will also learn about Pizarro’s anarchism (the family befriended the infamous, wonderful anarchist Felix Feneon) and his involvement in the Dreyfus affair (1894-1906), which the exhibition ignores. For although Pizarro was never a practicing Jew, the anti-Semites Renoir and Degas turned against the man to whom they owed so much, with vile insults to his character and art. They even poisoned the mind of the rich Julie Monet, whose deceased mother, Bertha Marisot, exhibited with Pizarro in all but one of the Impressionist exhibitions.


This enlightening, beautifully illustrated documentary assures Pissarro his place in history.

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