At a time of chaos with Christmas Day just hours away and when family descend on us from every direction, it is very difficult to put aside time to develop a new blog for My Daily Art Display. However today I am a writing a short entry featuring a painting by Camille Pissarro, which was on the majority of my Christmas cards which I sent out. So, today’s blog is my Christmas card to you. The painting is entitled Ferme à Montfoucault, effet de neige (Farm at Montfoucault, snow effect), which he completed in 1876 and can now be found in the Ashmoleon Museum.
It was Camille Pissarro’s good friend and fellow painter Ludovic Piette who had an estate at Montfoucault in the department of Mayenne in eastern Brittany. Pissarro stayed there numerous times in the 1860’s and 1870’s. It was during these periods that he completed many of his works of art depicting the region and its people. Pissarro was in awe of the surrounding countryside and once commented to a friend that he always look forward with much anticipation to being in “the true countryside”. This area was in complete contrast to Pontoise, where he had settled in 1872. Pontoise was a modem town with a large population criss-crossed by roads and railway lines in complete contrast to the tranquillity of Montfoucault. Montfoucault and the Mayenne department was criss-crossed, but not by numerous traffic-laden roads but by small country lanes and fields enclosed by hedgerows. The whole of the Mayenne region at the time was somewhat remote and isolated. It was Théodore Duret the French journalist and art critic who had recommended that Pissarro should journey to the area to find, as he termed it, “the path of rustic nature”.
The painting before you is of an enclosed barnyard of a farm which was close by to Ludovic Piette’s house. In all, Pissarro completed no fewer than eighteen paintings which depicted the immediate surroundings of Piette’s house. There is a coldness about this painting. It is the kind of scene you appreciate as you sit at home and absorb the warmth of a wood fire. The snow on the ground is melting slightly and turning to mud. I like the way Pissarro has depicted the scene with a cold light which falls on the thatched roofs and bundles of straw. Pissarro has managed to incorporate a number of animals into his painting as well as the figure of the farmer as he struggles through into the yard weighed down with bales of straw.
Despite his love for the area, this painting marked his last visit to the home of Ludovic Piette, who died in 1878.
So that is my Xmas card to you. For my Christmas present to you I would (if I could) give you one of three books on artists, which I have enjoyed reading this year and which I thoroughly recommend you buy.
They are not strictly biographies but a kind of fictional biography which has allowed the author to mix facts with a touch of fiction and which I believe adds to the enjoyment. The books are:
Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland and is a novel that brings to life Renoir’s masterpiece and how he came to paint the scene. It also gives an insight into the Impressionists and the tensions between certain members of the group.
As Above, So Below by Rudy Rucker. This is a fictional novel, based upon facts about the life and times of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. It is a lively and interesting tale which will appeal to all of you who love the work of Bruegel.
The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland. This is a fictional biography of Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the greatest female artists of all times and follows the struggles of the young woman who had to endure numerous setbacks and overcome much in a male-dominated society in order to reach the pinnacle of her career.
Finally let me wish you all, a very Merry Christmas.