Art, Poetry, Music, and Nature for the New Year
Friday, January 29 2021
The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster
If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:3
You have to travel all the way to The Met to see this urban landscape, horse drawn carriages and street lamps down the boulevard crammed into barely two and a half feet of canvas: the meandering pedestrians, the not-quite bustling crowd, the silver snow and luminous daylight come alive.
Camille Pissaro (1830–1903) was born in what we now call the U.S. Virgin Islands, and went to boarding school in Pairs, coming home with fiery artistic sensibilities. His Jewish merchant father disapproved, so during his self-funded twenties, he painted the tropics, hopping from the Virgin Islands down to Venezuela, and finally left for art school in Paris, where he met Monet and Renoir. Escaping to England in 1870 during the Franco Prussian war, he and Monet gobbled up art at the British museums until the war let up in 1871 and he could move back to France, this time joined by Cezanne, and later Gaugain and Van Gogh (and, name dropping just a little more, he picked up some of Seurat’s neo-Impressionist tendencies when they met in 1885). No surprise, then, his retrospective exhibition by influential art dealer Durand-Ruel in 1892 left him a strong financial foundation, allowing him to rent a room in the the Grand Hotel de Russie in Paris where he painted The Boulevard Montmartre on a Winter Morning among many other paintings of the same street.
From his hotel window, Pissaro recorded life on one of these smaller avenues, unlike the more popular 230 foot-wide Champs-Élysées (broad enough to land a 747 down the middle of it), The Boulevard Montmartre provided a more intimate picture of the Parisian lifestyle.
Despite what we detest and despise from many long months of winter and pandemic, we, too, like Pissaro, have been given a chance to take in a more intimate picture of everyday life. From our own windows, we see the commonplace, domestic, household realities that otherwise go unnoticed, and have a chance to be formed and framed by our nearness to the ordinary.
Under silver snow and luminous daylight, O God, give us the blessing of an intimate view of everyday life. Amen.