17 AUGUST 1944, Page 13


An Impressionist Master

nine Pissarro : Letters to His son Lucien. Edited with the Assistance of Lucien Pissarro by John Rewald. (Kegan Paul. 35s.)

HIS is an excellent piece of book-making by Mr. Rewald, the ;tor; not only has he skilfully edited the elder.Pissarro's letters to k son Lucien, eliminating the superfluous and redundant (of course,' omissions we have to take for granted, that is alivays so with ers, but we are not always informed, as, we are here, that they e been made, or of their nature), but he has also judiciously lected the large number of ninety illustrations with a view to uminating the text. These include not only a great many of C. ,sarro's own pictures, often juxtaposed with photographs of the me scene, for the sake of comparison—a most useful practice, ecially for the early great plein-air impressionist masters—but also roductions of the works of Pissarro's friends and contemporaries h as Renoir, Monet, Gauguin, Seurat, Cezanne, &c., and a number woodcuts by Pissarro's son, Lucien, who died in England, where had made his home since the early 'eighties, only a few weeks ago. The letters begin in January, 1883, to Lucien a young man of enty, then on his way to London, to, whom his father writes : 'e are all well, including the children; mother is very busy. continue to jog along surrounded with my unfinished paintings .

drawings, seeking the rare bird whose plumage is resplendent th all the colours of the rainbow, whose song is musical and pure ; fection, as Degas would say, why not! Don't forget to draw." hese two refrains, the search for perfection, " musical and pure," the " don't forget to draw," are the constant themes of these ters from 1883 to the end, and almost twenty years later we find writing to Lucien, then well-known for his wood-cuts and strated books, repeating his 'advice to study nature at first

" What you write me about Ricketts' work doesn't surprise

The general rule that is followed nowadays is to look for a It in the works of one's predecessors .without asking oneself what ure could provide. Thus, inevitably, he turns about like those Inds in their cage, without suspecting there is a spring, a summer, autumn, a winter, air, the light, harmonies, admirable and in- te subtleties in nature, and that the problem is to pay close heed to sc. It is true that he is not a painter but a literary man who has tory to tell ; that isn't very interesting, and the fact is that this been very well done already—there is little value in playing the e note all the time." On this theme in a letter dated 26.11.02 gives a sarcastic account of a young artist's methods he has come s: " He makes many studies from nature, using the methods ght in the schools. In this way he is able to cover endless quanti- of canvas without 'taking into account the air or the light, and paints everything a uniform brown! And that in the south! en he has made enough sketches in this way he addresses himself s painting, for the official Salon; a canvas of more than six feet, r having established his motif by means of photographs! Marvel- , what! He will get a medal for this, and will be hailed as a painter. ..."

ese letters, it is true, will interest chiefly artists, critics and oisseurs, and the more genuine their love and understanding of the more deeply they will appreciate and enjoy them. We owe e fact that Lucien had chosen an artist's career, and that he had e to a foreign country, this almost unrivalled, unbroken, intimate rd of the painting life of one of the original and most authentic, ast showy, of the fathers of the great French school of Impres- Ism Pissarro was one of the few who influenced his friend ne, and he was one of the first to welcome that remarkable t Seurat, if he did not completely subscribe to his theory of tellism. His criticism of the works of his contemporaries whom enuincly admired—Renoir, Degat, Monet, Sisley, Manet, Berthe, isol, Gauguin—is always penetrating, personal and interesting. of the remarks on the English section of the Centenary section letter from Paris dated June 17th, 1900, may interest English ers especially: "There are hardly more than two- good things, portrait of Shannon, a pure Watts, very skilfully done, in overdone and lacking in blood. Shannon is not the colour of a ed Hindu. No, my dear, there is no point in' repainting the old ers however skilfully you do it ; even Watts, even Whistler, especi- .Whistler, adroit as he is, fails alongside of Manet and Renoir, inspiration. There is the same monotonous repetition, one

feels the process behind it." In everything Pissarro writes we hear the voice of a sound and honest artist who knows exactly what he is about, and has nothing of the trickster, charlatan or publicist in 'his nature. He is therefore the soundest possible reading for the