Many of the artists featured in the special exhibition Van Gogh to Pollock: Modern Rebels, Masterworks from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery are also represented in the collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum. This is the fourth in a series of blog posts that will highlight Milwaukee’s artworks during the run of the exhibition.
A bustling market welcomes the viewer of Impressionist artist Camille Pissarro’s Vegetable Market at Pontoise. We can almost hear the commotion of the rural village where he lived for some time.
Playing the part of both voyeur and companion, we stand behind a woman selling her vegetables. A young woman stops in front of us, deliberating whether or not she would like to buy what is gently offered to her. We can nearly hear their more quiet conversation in the midst of the lively square where all individuals congregate without segregation of rank. There are men with top hats conversing and women in fine dresses strolling, while others are clearly from a more modest upbringing.
Camille Pissarro (French, 1830-1903) is often called the “father” of the Impressionist movement. Ten years older than artists such as Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926) and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841–1919), Pissarro became a mentor to them and others. In fact, Paul Cézanne (French, 1839–1906) wrote in his memoir, “he was a father to me, a man to consult”.
Fundamentally self-taught, Pissarro gained a popular reputation through the exhibition of artwork at all eight Impressionist exhibitions held between 1874 and 1886. While he did not receive the same amount of fame as other Impressionist artists, he had a long, fruitful career that was marked by experimentation. His influence was felt on the modern art movements of the late nineteenth century.
Although Pissarro only published eight prints to sell during his lifetime, among his Impressionist contemporaries he was celebrated as the most prolific and innovative printmaker. Many of his early prints were made when working closely with Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917). These prints were quite unorthodox, mixing printing processes in order to obtain atmospheric effects.
Then, in the mid-1880s, Pissarro returned to a more traditional form of printmaking more suitable for sale. It is after this transition that he produces Vegetable Market at Pontoise.
Despite the more conventional approach, Vegetable Market at Pontoise still combines three distinct printing techniques: etching, drypoint, and aquatint. By using all three of these techniques in one print, Pissarro is able to create a sense of motion and activity within the image. Without it, the composition could be quite static because it is crowded with figures almost stacked on top of one another.
It just proves that even when working within tradition, the father of Impressionism was still breaking the rules!
—Samantha Landre, curatorial intern and Catherine Sawinski, Assistant Curator of Earlier European Art