it’s hard to get high on such low-key art

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Confession time. I have never even experienced a flutter of excitement in front of the painting of Camille Pissarro, the subject of a virtually new exhibition at the Ashmorian Museum in Oxford. do you have? Indeed, the French artist of the 19th century is one of the Impressionist tycoons and the only member of the group who participated in all eight Impressionist exhibitions between 1874 and 1886. But it’s hard to get excited about such modest art.

For example, consider his typical unimpressive photo at The Courtauld Gallery. A small steam locomotive departs from a suburban station in southern London and runs towards a viewer surrounded by muddy, dull green banks. His advocates argue that the mediocrity of the scene is the point. If you want a flashy effect, try Monet.

Still, in the catalog of the recent Pissarro retrospective exhibition at the Basel Museum (the show of Ashmorian’s 120 works is an “edited version”), even British art historian TJ Clark, his paintings are always “specific dullness”. I admit that I am threatening. “Be prepared to be disappointed with Pissarro,” Clark wrote.

Based on the evidence of the Oxford show, there are many recommendations (especially the fact that one-third of the exhibits are from other artists such as Cezanne, Degas, Gauguin, Monet). Pissarro feels sick to report this. It was very good. In his self-portrait and magnified photo on the wall of the gallery, this tanned, unpretentious man grew up in the Caribbean before settling in France at the age of 25, under a hanging beret, with a featureless sparkle. Jehovah looks as gentle and benevolent as Jehovah with long white berets and smiling eyes peeking into the half-moon specs.

He had a large family that matched the appearance of the Old Testament: a sweet interlude in the show groups photos of his children together (he was eight, five of whom survived). .. , Settled in the UK. In the despair of his wife Julie, who was resentful that her uncompromising husband couldn’t make money (for example, unlike Renoir, he couldn’t cancel the pot boiler), Pissarro was his companion. I advised him to follow in his footsteps.

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