Camille Pissarro / Bathers / 1895-1896Camille Pissarro

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Creator Name: Pissarro, Camille
Creator Dates/Places: French, 1830 - 1903
Creator Name-CRT: Camille Pissarro
Title: Bathers
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1895
Creation End Date: 1896
Creation Date: 1895-1896
Object Type: Drawings and Watercolors
Materials and Techniques: Monoprint, pencil, gouache, laid paper
Dimensions: Image dimensions: 4 1/2 x 6 1/4 in. (11.43 x 15.875 cm.) Framed dimensions: 11 x 5 1/2 x 1 3/4 in. (27.94 x 13.97 x 4.445 cm.)
AMICA Contributor: Dallas Museum of Art
Owner Location: Dallas, Texas, USA
ID Number: 1985.R.46
Credit Line: Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection
Context: Camille Pissarro painted only four self-portraits during his long life. The first (Musýe d'Orsay, Paris) was finished, signed, and dated in 1873, a year of intense plein-air painting with Cýzanne. The last (Tate Gallery, London) was finished, signed, and dated in 1903, just months before his death. The remaining two were neither signed nor dated, but were stamped with the artist's initials after his death and remained in the possession of the Pissarro family. The Reves portrait is more unusual and easier to place in time than the other undated self-portrait (c. 1898, Edwin C. Vogel Collection, New York). It was painted between December 1897 and February 1898, in Pissarro's hotel suite on the second floor of the Hýtel du Louvre, on the place du Louvre at the center of Paris. In the hotel room, Pissarro worked on his most significant series of urban paintings, representing the avenue de l'Opýra, of which one of the subtlest versions is also in the Reves Collection. [see Dallas Museum of Art, 1985.R.50]This self-portrait was made at a time of tragedy and emotional strain for the sixty-seven-year-old painter. Earlier in the year, he had nursed his eldest son, Lucien, back to health from a stroke, and his younger son, Fýlix, was diagnosed with tuberculosis and died at the age of twenty-three on 25 November. Perhaps in an effort to deal with these hardships, Pissarro threw himself into his greatest series of urban paintings, creating fifteen masterpieces from the window of his room in a scant six weeks. Perhaps also to gauge his own strength and conquer the loneliness of a Paris hotel, he began this, his first painted self-portrait since 1873. As if these personal trials were not enough, Pissarro had the additional burden of living as a Jew in Paris at the height of anti-Semitism in that country. With the publication of Emile Zola's "J'Accuse" in January 1898, the Dreyfus Affair had emerged as the overriding national issue. For many reasons, Pissarro was more consumed with the fate of Captain Alfred Dreyfus than were his colleagues. These burdens - both moral and mortal - weighed on him and were exacerbated by his persistent eye infections.Yet, when we look at this self-portrait and remind ourselves of Pissarro's problems, the painting seems to shed them in favor of the quiet persistence of work. For Pissarro, work was "the moral regulator of life" (Mirbeau 1904, preface). When he suffered traumas, he never sought to depict them or to embody their effect on his tortured soul but, rather, attempted to approach himself honestly and simply through the act of self-representation. He set himself up in his room at the center of a triangle - the window at his back, a mirror in front of him, and the painting between them. In this simple arrangement, he conjoined the two principal metaphors for painting - the mirror into the soul and the window onto the world. And at their nexus, he placed himself as a painter in the act of patient representation.Pissarro never finished the painting, and we can measure his uncertainties and transformations as we look at it. The palette has been lowered and made strictly parallel to the bottom edge, and Pissarro adjusted his painting smock to gain control of the left side of the painting. Perhaps he abandoned the self-portrait in his haste to finish the series of cityscapes for exhibition at Durand-Ruel's gallery in June of the same year. In the end, Pissarro's views from the window were, for him, a more enduring indicator of his ideas than any self-portrait."Impressionist Paintings Drawings and Sculpture from the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection," page 127
AMICA ID: DMA_.1985.R.46
AMICA Library Year: 2003
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