m ressions of an anarchist

Pissarro was an Anarchist, an Impressionist, and a Good Man. Alexander Watt outlines his importance and his principles in anticipation of a major exhibition at the Burrell.

It would be hard to find a more admirable or sympathetic figure than

the Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro. He had all the virtues: modesty. purity of heart. devotion to his work and a generosity ofspirit that affected everyone who knew him. Zola wrote ofhim in 1866. long before his greatest work. ‘a fine picture by this artist is the act of an honest man‘. and this catches something of his selfless approach to landscape painting. It is also why he is the least familiar ofthe major Impressionists. Monet. Renoir and


in Glasgow. as well as its

socialist. feminist (and

' influence in supporting most other) critics. lie

young artists and inspiring founded the glossy othervenues to open. magazine Modern Painters Happy birthday also. tothe two years ago.


I MAYFEST: Compass

at Tramway.

The Compass celebrates its 25th birthday with a mega-show at the Tramway. Where else could they have fitted 111 artists?

I OBITUARY: Peter Fuller. Prolific critic and theorist Peter Fullerwas killed in a car accident on April 28th. One of his last pieces oi writing was the catalogue essayiorJohn Bellany at the Compass (he endorsed much of the Scottish figurative painting). A fervent marxist supporter of John Berger in the 70s. Fullertumed radical right in the 80s. and was prominent

Third Eye Centre. 15this

I MAYFEST: Beilany at Compass.

Since his majorillness three years ago. Bellany has had one major exhibition-the self-portraits done in hospital and during convalesence. shown by the National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. His Mayfest show atthe Compass Gallery will be of new work, and marks a return to and development

The exhibition will show the 6 among those who tried to of the imagery seen in his importance of the Compass : promote intellectual work before his illness. through the lean years when fightwing cunmi theory, such as the fisher-folk and

there were few contemporary art galleries

As such. he was a constant thorn in the side of liberal.

sea-beasts inspired by Celtic mythology.

Degas all appear to us as recognisable characters in their work, but Pissarro. the truest and most complete Impressionist of them all. seems to retreat into the dense network of his brushstrokes. His personality disappears in the naturalism ofeach scene because he rarely uses petty skills or showy devices. ‘He is a pursuer after excellence.‘ Zola continued. ‘a strenuous seeker after truth. unconcerned with little tricks of the trade. How on earth can one expect such a man and such pictures to be popular?‘

Who. then. is this saintly character? He seems almost too good to be true. There is certainly more to him and his art than these comments might indicate. He was the most consistent of the Impressionists. the only one to participate in all eight of their exhibitions. but this conceals a much more complex range of interests. For much of his life he was an ardent supporter of the Anarchist movement in France. and indeed abandoned Impressionism in the 1880s in order to introduce a greater sense of his social concerns into his art. The large figurative scenes with farm workers and peasants are a direct result of his political sympathies. He was also a strong supporter of the avanrgarde. even when it seemed to contradict his own interests. He experimented with the new ‘pointillist‘ style ofSeurat for a while. believing this to be a truly democratic art based on logical principles that everyone could understand and appreciate.

It is for the Impressionist landscapes that he produced around Pontoise to the north of Paris. that he will be best known. Patient. exacting and immensely subtle in their treatment of light. these are outstanding pictures that make no concession to the merely pretty. Pissarro was most comfortable at Pontoise; here he met and encouraged all the younger artists who sought his advice. He must have been an inspired teacher (Mary Cassatt said he could teach a stone to draw properly). and he gave freely of his time and support. The list of those who benefited from his advice includes the leading artists of the next generation: Cezanne. Seurat. Gauguin and Van (iogh. Pissarro. if anyone. was responsible for making Impressionism the force that it was in French art ofthe late l9th century.

Perhaps the greatest tribute came from Cezanne. who never failed to acknowledge his debt to the ‘painter‘s painter‘. In the catalogue ofa retrospective exhibition just before his own death in 1906. and at a time when he was idolised by the younger generation of Matisse and Picasso. he signed himself ‘(7ezanne.

pupil of Pissarro‘. ( ‘amille Pissarro: I m p ressionis‘ni. Landscape and Rural Labour is a! the Barrel] Collection 4 May—I 7Jum'.




smstcuc stun-.ciict miolit itsmm

mon sot 9.30 - 5.00 sundoy 2.00 - 5.00 admission adults £2 children and concessions if

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The List 4 l7 May 1990 27