November 1st, 2011

piranha - study hard.

Legion of Honor: Pissarro's People

Today I meant to see the "Masters of Venice" show at the San Francisco Museums of Fine Arts, but I screwed up a little bit. I assumed the show would be at the Legion of Honor, the usual home for art by old masters; this is the museum that showcases Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque art from Europe. The other fine arts museum, the De Young, has non-western art from Oceania and Mesoamerica, American art, and some modern art. Some of the blockbuster shows to pass through the De Young in the past few years have been Tutankhamen, Andy Warhol, Balenciaga, and Post-Impressionists. As it turns out, this is also where the Masterpieces of Venice were displayed.

Too bad I didn't figure this out until Seanie and I were already at the Legion.

Instead of seeing Renaissance masters, we saw something called Pissarro's People. Impressionists, as a rule, don't do much for me, but Pissarro's works are especially dull. Nearly all of the paintings were of middle class people doing domestic things - snore! If I want to see that, I'll stay home and watch my mom drink coffee, grade papers and surf the Internet.

I mean, I'm really trying to think of something positive to say about Pissarro's art. I can think about great things to say about him, as a man. He seems to have been a mentor figure to many prominent painters, including Mary Cassatt and Cezanne and Gaugain. Throughout his life, he experimented with his artistic style, and would ignore popular trends if he thought following them would compromise his art. But when I look at his paintings, I feel nothing. The colors seem dull and tired. The figures lack animation, even though the brushstrokes are painterly and full of motion. He lets the white of the canvas show through often enough that his art has a rough, unfinished quality that I just don't care for. I guess he's just the polar opposite of my tastes.