Pissarro’s View of the Tuileries. Morning (1900)

In 1898 Pissarro rented an apartment with a magnificent view over the Tuileries Gardens to the Louvre. This image, one of several painted from the same window, is not what you might expect. The conventional view of Impressionism as an imitation of how light strikes the eye is wrong as I will continue to show. No great artist would paint something quite so mindless year after year. Here Pissarro suggests that the reflecting pool is his own eye.  

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Captions for image(s) above:

Pissarro, Vue des Tuileries. Matin (1900)

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In a self-portrait dated the same year, 1900, Pissarro peers out the corner of his eyes as he does in several other self-portraits as well. It was part of his "look".  

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Captions for image(s) above:

Pissarro, Self-portrait (1900)

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Now see how the reflecting pool mirrors an eye from his self-portrait inverted. Both look to the left, the former towards the Louvre. The circular paths mimic the frames of his spectacles while the highlight captured on their bridge becomes, I think, the pathway out to the left. In the distance the southern arm of the Louvre can be seen.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Left: Pissarro, Vue des Tuileries. Matin (1900)
Right: Detail of Pissarro's 1900 Self-Portrait, inverted

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The visible pool has its partner fully obscured by trees above. Pissarro's two "pools" are a continuation of the long tradition in which a great artist has one eye open to external vision, the other closed for insight.

The pools, incidentally, are part of the Tuileries Gardens, a symbol of French monarchy. So, just as Velazquez's reflecting "eye" is depicted as royal in Las Meninas, so Pissarro's eyes are "royal" here as a symbol for the majesty of his own self. 

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Captions for image(s) above:

 

Pissarro, Vue des Tuileries. Matin (1900)

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I have already shown how a drawing by Pissarro, Village on a Hill-Top (c.1890) includes a related metamorphosis. More will follow and by other Impressionists too. These spiritual craftsmen and craftswomen working in visual media use nature and landscape as a metaphor for the nature of consciousness and their search for Wisdom. Poets do too, of course. Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden: ‘A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.”1  Impressionist paintings may look original and ahead of their time but their message, as always, is universal and for the ages. 

 

Notes:

1. Thoreau, Walden cited in Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. M. Jolas (Boston: Beacon Press) 1994, p. 210

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