Provence, Pissarros find home at Christina Gallery in Edgartown

Provence, Pissarros find home at Christina Gallery in Edgartown

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One of many works by the Camille Pissarro family at Christina Gallery is "Farmhouse with Woman and Chickens" by Paulémile Pissarro. — Photo courtesy of The Christina Gallery

Among the art establishments that will keep their doors open Thursday, July 12, for Edgartown’s evening Art Stroll is Christina Gallery on North Water Street, now in its 36th season.

Traditional impressionist, expressionist, and marine paintings fill two floors in this handsome exhibition space. The vibrantly colored Provence landscapes and still lifes of Lloyd Kelly will command the central part of the gallery until Thursday, July 19, and the gallery’s artist’s reception on July 12 will honor him and “Paintings of Provence.”

Represented by Christina since 1994, Mr. Kelly created the oils currently on display during a teaching trip to southern France. A colorist, he relies on underpainting with complementary colors and frequently uses a lavender palette in this exhibit. Particularly appealing is his still life, “Bundles of Lavender.”

But art cognoscenti will also want to pay attention to an alcove on the main floor of the gallery. It is filled with four generations of paintings, etchings, watercolors, and pastels by Camille Pissarro and family members. Four of them are new to the gallery this year.

The well-known 19th-century painter fathered seven children, and Christina Gallery has on exhibit work by the master, four of his sons, a grandson, and a great granddaughter. More than 20 pieces by Pissarro family members hang in the gallery.

The St. Thomas-born senior Pissarro made his mark for many as the father of 19th-century French Impressionism. Studying with Courbet and Corot, among others, this artist learned to appreciate the importance of painting outdoors, in French known as en plein air. Plein-air painting is popular among Vineyard artists today.

Well into the mid-19th century, the French painting establishment based its work on religious, historical, and mythological themes. Early impressionists like Pissarro were game-changers, preferring to depict natural settings without the rigid conventions of the academic painters. Among the best-known Impressionist artists influenced by Pissarro are Cezanne, Gauguin, and Renoir, who like him were not afraid to be accused of vulgarity by portraying peasants and country scenes in their work.

Christina Cook, proprietor of the gallery named after her, and her mother, Liz Cook, spend their time off-season reading about art and traveling in Europe looking for new work, including more Pissarros.

“We’re very careful when we buy pieces because there are so many forgeries and so much funny business,” says the senior Ms. Cook. Every work the gallery buys comes documented. Now based in London, the Pissarro family has told the Edgartown gallery that in one case an unscrupulous art vendor took a Pissarro etching and colored it to sell as a pastel at a higher price.

The Cook family buys its Pissarro art directly from the Pissarro family, who run a gallery in London, and they have developed a relationship with family members, including great granddaughter Lélia Pissaro, who visited the gallery three years ago. “We had a nice luncheon,” the senior Ms. Cook remembers.

“We only work with five or six European dealers,” she says. “We are comfortable with them and know what we’re getting.” Art by Renoir and Whistler shares space with the Pissarro collection.

Camille Pissarro’s eldest son, the late Lucien Pissarro, whose style might be described as more robust than his father’s, has a delightful etching “Children,” where figures are grouped on chairs and the floor in a circle. More finely detailed with hatched foliage and shadowing are the senior Pissarro’s “Woman at the Gate,” and his charming “Peasant Carrying Hay.”

Part of the fun for art strollers will come in comparing how the family’s styles change or echo one another over the generations. In addition to a watercolor and a pastel new this year, Christina Gallery carries four works by the senior Pissarro’s youngest son, Paulémile. His others include a drawing and three watercolors.

Paulémile studied with Claude Monet, and stylistically his art reflects both the Impressionist tradition and the early 20th century. So do the drawing and three oils by his brother, Ludovic-Rodo Pissarro — one is new this year — and the gouache, mixed media, and drawings of George-Henri Pissarro.

The four colorful pastels and oils by grandson H. Claude Pissarro (son of Paulémile) show a Fauvist influence in palette and style. Also new to the collection this year is “Monet’s House” by Lélia Pissarro.

Christina Gallery’s Pissarro collection remains on view throughout the year.

“Paintings of Provence” by Lloyd Kelly, opening reception 6-8 pm, Thursday, July 12, Christina Gallery, 32 North Water St., Edgartown. For more information, call 508-627-8794 or visit christina.com.