A Fruitful Friendship; Cezanne and Pissarro Get a New Look in New York
Patel, Vibhuti, Newsweek International
Byline: Vibhuti Patel
Museumgoers have, in recent years, grown accustomed to art being contextualized. Curators now like to pair painters to show how they feed off each other's ideas. New Yorkers have seen Picasso alongside Matisse, and Manet displayed next to Velazquez. Now, in "Pioneering Modern Painting: Cezanne and Pissarro 1865-1885," New York's Museum of Modern Art has tried to capture the creative relationship between two artists who worked side by side for two decades en plein air in a compelling artistic dialogue in the countryside northwest of Paris. Curated by Joachim Pissarro, the painter's great-grandson, the exhibit focuses on the friendship that grew between the two men out of shared beliefs and values.
The artists met in Paris in 1861. Paul Cezanne, born in Provence, was nine years younger than Camille Pissarro, a Jew from the Caribbean. Both were outsiders in the Parisian art world and came from bourgeois families that disapproved of their metier. Both also believed in anarchism and were workaholics who lived for their art. Cezanne boasted that his paintings would shock the establishment; Pissarro declared that art could be saved only by setting the Louvre on fire.
The MoMA exhibit shows how Pissarro, long considered the lesser painter, impressed Cezanne and influenced him profoundly. The younger man sought out the places that Pissarro had painted and even borrowed Pissarro's "Louveciennes," a landscape painted in the impressionistic style of subtle gradations of color, to create his own version--a smaller, denser landscape pared down to essentials with bold parallel brushstrokes. Even in paintings as dissimilar as Cezanne's "Still Life With Soup Tureen" and Pissarro's "Portrait of Cezanne," there is commonality: each features a Pissarro painting in its background. …