Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pissarro: Chestnut Trees at Louveciennes


One of Pissarro’s most “primitive” works, there is something of a child’s naive depiction of the human figure in the mother and child who stand soberly facing us, so thoroughly bundled against the cold as to render normal movement impossible. The glowing orange-red of the side of the house which is turned away from the illumination of sunset and which in reality should be affected by the shadowy snow, blued by the withdrawal of light, suggests that the purpose of the artist overrode the requirements of realism. If we must suspend disbelief to get to the kernel of it, so be it.

The mother and child are rendered almost iconic by the Gothic arch effect of the meeting branches of the chestnuts at center and left, which also enclose the halo of the sunset. But it’s the simple primary palette Pissarro has chosen that packs such an emotional punch and allows us to inhabit these anonymous little swaddled figures, for all their naiveté of execution. The extreme cold of the blue snow—with more, the sky suggests, to come--- is set against the patch of warm yellow of that last light of the day and the psychological warmth offered by the glowing red house: this is Proust’s madeleine in painterly form, luscious and evocative, yet in its simplicity never cloying. Loss and comfort after loss, coldness and warmth, both physical and psychological, quite amazingly all there.

(Posted by Joan Terrell Smith)

50 comments:

River Rat said...

Ellie, these are such fun to read! I really love his paintings anyway, but it's great to be reminded of them and to have your take on what it is that grabs us in these works. Thanks!

Ellie Clemens said...

Thanks for the kind words, but they should go to Joan Terrell Smith for this particular painting. She chose it did the write up, I just posted it for her because she was having technical problems.

River Rat said...

Kudos to Joan, then! It's fascinating to hear other artists discuss why they like specific works.

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