The rendering of snow has always fascinated painters in general and the Impressionists in particular. The arrival of winter inspired me to take a short walk among the canvases of our friends Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Claude Monet, Armand Guillaumin and Gustave Caillebotte who represented the snow's white (if one can say so) coat in various locations.
Snow is never white. It borrows its colors from the sky, the trees, the isolated cottages in the middle of the fields. Along with water and sky, it is one of the most complex landscape elements to render by their texture, by the way they catch the light, by the permanent play of opacity and transparency.
Let's put on our boots and go...
Alfred Sisley and Camille Pissarro both painted in Louveciennes in the early 1870s. In Sisley's painting, the sky is low, milky, laden with unborn snowflakes. No character comes to disturb the stifled atmosphere of the painting where the artist succeeds in evoking in his painting this very particular silence which bathes such a landscape.
A ray of sunshine made its way onto Camille Pissarro's canvas, also devoid of human presence. The pale blue of the sky glides over the snow whose shadows accentuate the relief. The tree, in the foreground, seems to greet the spectator with its twisted branches still powdered, while the gaze is drawn towards the house, as if to invite the visitor to warm up before continuing his walk.
In this painting, made three years before his famous magpie, Claude Monet takes us to Honfleur by embedding a cart in a pale landscape on a path carpeted with snow that we guess is dirty and wet. The closeness of touch, tones and light with the picture that Sisley would paint almost ten years later is obvious.
Painted in the run-up to the 4th Impressionist exhibition, this canvas by Gustave Caillebotte was realized at a turning point in his life. In October 1878, he lost his mother Céleste after the death of his father Martial in 1874, and of his brother René in 1876. Struck by these successive bereavements, he decided with his brother Martial to sell the family properties in the rue de Miromesnil to Paris and Yerres in Essonne and settling together on Boulevard Hausmann. Sole painting in this series that depicts snow in an urban context, this canvas gives an impression of heaviness and dull sounds under a dark, milky sky, just suggested by a very high horizon line.
In this work by Armand Guillaumin, an isolated character punctuates the trace of a path, a mixture of mud and snow, under a uniform sky which nevertheless allows a few rays of sunshine which illuminate the summit of the hillside. A emaciated tree whose verticality reinforces the impression of loneliness, prolongs the silhouette of the walker.
In his art history lectures, Fabrice Roy combines the past with the present, in a poetic and playful evocation of the French 19th century...