Pioneering Modern Painting: Cézanne and Pissarro 1865 – 1885

The Museum of Modern Art and Musée d'Orsay
New York, NY and Paris

Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906) and Camille Pissarro (1830 – 1903) met in Paris in 1861 and developed a personal and professional relationship that lasted almost a quarter of a century. They shared an intimate approach to the practice of painting and a love for serious work that translated into a fascinating artistic dialogue.

That dialogue is the focus of this exhibition, Pioneering Modern Painting: Cézanne and Pissarro 1865 – 1885, which is the first to bring together the work of these two major artists of the late nineteenth-century. The accompanying catalogue features thematic groupings of these artistic styles and motifs. Working in tandem or with each other in mind, Cézanne and Pissarro formulated a distinctly modern art, simultaneously self-confident and self-critical.

Introduction by Joachim Pissarro:

The long and intense collaborative relationship between Camille Pissarro (1830–1903) and Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) began when they met in Paris in 1861, while Cézanne was studying at the art studio of the Académie Suisse, and lasted for over twenty years. Pissarro, who was born on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas to a Jewish family, and Cézanne, born in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France, found a common bond as outsiders in the Parisian art world. Their perspectives from marginalized positions fueled their quest for an art that was free from the regulations of bourgeois society and that shattered conventional notions of beauty.

Both Cézanne and Pissarro felt a profound need for a revolution in the arts. Like many of their contemporaries, they questioned the relevance of tradition in the modern era and sought alternatives to the government–sponsored and juried Salons, which were dominated by allegorical and historical genre painting. They called for the dismantling of the art establishment and for a new artistic language free from the bonds of convention. Pioneering Modern Painting: Cézanne and Pissarro 1865–1885 demonstrates how these artists’ political and philosophical views brought them together and ignited a dialogue that lasted for more than two decades. Many of the paintings presented here are reunited for the first time since their creation. At times, the artistic styles are nearly indistinguishable; at others, they are worlds apart. Together, the works reveal a true exchange of ideas based on mutual respect, serious work, emulation, and a quest for originality, as Cézanne and Pissarro looked to one another to shape their novel visions of modern painting.