Friday, August 05, 2011
Camille Pissarro's “Turpitudes Sociales” (“Social Disgraces”)
He became deeply immersed in revolutionary politics, specifically in anarchist thinking that espoused a radically egalitarian, anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian society. Partly because this way of life was most easily realized in a rural setting, Pissarro moved to Pontoise, a farming village outside Paris. The result, in painting after painting, was a vision of the world as a kind of extended family, or kinship network, with larger circles of relationships rippling outward from Pissarro’s own domestic unit. Pissarro’s idealism was insistent. Because he wanted his projection of a better future to be realized, he tried to work it out in the present, through his own practice of ethical generosity, firm in the face of political censorship (he was closely watched by the French police because of his anarchist ties), anti-Semitism (he forgave this in Degas) and professional isolation as an artist who was neither born French nor had French citizenship (a status he shared with his friend Mary Cassatt). Yet the stranger in him, the foreigner looking in, led him to acknowledge the underside of that vision. In late 1880s he made a series of 30 ink drawings illustrating the brutalities of urban capitalist society. The album, titled “Turpitudes Sociales” (“Social Disgraces”), have the bold, crude look of newspaper cartoons and were made for two of his nieces by way of political instruction. Nothing else by him is like them, and they haven’t been exhibited in a museum until now. - HOLLAND COTTER
In the mid-1860s Pissarro lived in the village of La Roche-Guyon, where he painted this scene along the River Seine. A bourgeois woman attends to her two well-dressed children as they enjoy a donkey ride while a pair of vagabond children, dressed in rags, look on.
"Capital," from Turpitudes sociales, 1889–90.
"The Hanged Millionaire," from Turpitudes sociales, 1889–90.
MARKETING THE MARKETS - Pissarro’s representations of rural food markets can be understood as a metaphor for his own marketing of art. In the late nineteenth century, works of art were typically associated with luxury and leisure, commodities accessible only to the wealthy. Pissarro and other left-wing artists held a different view: the very life of the artist was a liberation from the bourgeois preoccupation with money or capital. Artists could live simply and produce art that could decorate and enhance ordinary life.