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The Arts Voyager, 12-13: Impressionist as Humanist
"Pissarro's People" revived in San Francisco

Camille Pissaro, "Self-Portrait with Hat," 1903. Tate Gallery, London. Presented by Lucien
Pissarro, the artist's son 1931. Images courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2011 Paul Ben-Itzak

PONTOISE (Val-d'Oise), France -- On a side street off the rue de L'Hermitage in this mundane outlying suburb of Paris sits a cluster of four unremarkable houses. You wouldn't be looking for them at all unless you happened to know that their roofs were memorialized by one Camille Pissarro in his 1877 oil painting "Les Toits Rouges." But this was the genius of Pissarro, to elevate the mundane to the level of the pastoral. To combine eye, the ability to see beauty in the ordinary, with technique, the ability to deploy the tools to bring to the premiere plain, in color and its application, the aspects of a subject, be it a country passage or a family portrait, a group of field laborers harvesting apples or a domestic worker holding with both hands her cup of coffee, that make it memorable.

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