Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fathers and sons

The Chautauqua newspaper is always fun to get this time of year because it reminds you that summer is right around the corner. Looking it over, I saw this poignant little story.

The late Portuguese-born sculptor George Pissarro produced a prodigious amount of pieces in marble ... A descendant of the great French painter Camille Pissarro, George supported himself as an usher at Lincoln Center. Before his recent death, he lived in a ramshackle carriage house in a blighted neighborhood on Staten Island and never received critical acclaim.

Wow, how weird! I am not much into visual art these days and it is interesting to know that there was this descendant of Camille Pissarro running around making art and supporting himself as an usher at Lincoln Center and living in a ramshackle carriage house.

My brother George and I are fans of Camille Pissarro. When we were in Paris we undertook this search in the famous Paris cemetery for Pissarro's grave. It took forever because first of all it was 95 degrees and secondly we discovered that Pissarro's grave was deep in the Jewish section where there was nothing but Hebrew. But we persevered. And we found it! Camille Pissarro has a stone that we felt was woefully small for an artist of his stature. We feel that Pissarro was greater than Monet.

So, poor George Pissarro. That is a tough row to hoe, being the descendent of a great, and then entering the same field. In contemporary art these days it is pretty much impossible to tell who has talent and who does not. But I would guess that George does not measure up to Camille. Because look, that is a Pissarro painting pictured above.

And here is a set of George Pissarro's sculptures. They do not awaken the same emotion in me, I have to say that.

My sister and I used to joke about writing a play called "Fathers and Sons," about situations like this in music.

There was Mozart's son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart II, originally named Franz Xavier. Greatest guy, apparently, but not his dad, is all I am saying.

And Duke Ellington's son, Mercer Ellington.

Like Mozart's son, Mercer was the greatest guy. And I love his easy blues "Things Ain't What They Used to Be." But he was not the Duke. I am just saying.

We could also include Siegfried Wagner.

They are coming out these days with a ton of Siegfried Wagner operas. When in the world am I going to find the time to wade through them? I feel I should. I listened to one, "Sonnenflamen," and I liked it. But I am such a fan of Richard Wagner that I could hardly hear clearly because I was too busy regretting that Siegfried was not the old man.

Here is an excerpt from Siegfried's opera "Sternengebot." Listen to it, someone, and tell me how it is.

The poor guy, Siegfried! Even his opera titles are forgettable! Not like "Tannhauser." Not like "Goetterdaemmerung."

Probably I shouldn't lump all three of these sons together. They were of varying talents and abilities.

But like George Pissarro, they had a tough row to hoe.


  1. I disagree with your comments about George Pissarro.

    He was as great a sculptor of stone and wood as Camille Pissarro was a painter.

    You've seen only a fraction of the great work that George did during his lifetime.

    Gary Brant, Director
    Galerie St. George
    Staten Island, New York 10301

  2. Mr. Brant, thanks for the note! It is an honor to hear from you and it was nice of you to read my blog. I wrote what I wrote more because I love Camille Pissarro than to pay disrespect to his son. But you're right, I should become better acquainted with George Pissarro's work before running my mouth.

    Maybe I'll do a follow-up post!

  3. "so poor george pissarro", yeah, maybe poor in your eyes, but with huge heart and talent, probably much bigger than your poor self.

  4. I just love people who make uninformed statements like "I would guess that George doesn't measure up to Camille." The key word in that sentence is 'guess'.

  5. George was way more than just a painter and sculptor. And he was a VERY prolific sculptor. Beyond that he was a charming man with a VERY artistic and unique personality. Personally, I would love to own some of his sculptures. Yes, you should acquaint yourself with his work.

  6. I'm sorry but my brother George Pissarro was born in Lisbon - Portugal and we are a portuguese familly and is very to establish a direct link to the french familly of Camille Pissarro.

  7. I met George Pissarro in New York City in 1983, and remained his friend till the end of his life. It still saddens me that his genius as a sculptor did not gain renown during his life.

    George was incredibly prolific; I have wondered what became of his large body of work after his death. He always struggled with penury, somehow managing to find studio spaces as diverse as a basement in Manhattan, a barn on Staten Island, finally, as far as I know, a backyard festival tent. Galerie St. George apparently has some of his work, judging by the comment above, but I see no mention of it on their website.

    George was an amazing talent and personality. I have a set of copies of photos of his work, and will be glad to post pictures if anyone is interested. I would also love to know where his works reside...

    See http://intuitiveclutch.blogspot.com/

  8. George PISSARRO ( born Jorge ) was not only a terrific sculptor who carved beautifully any stone or wood but he also used any medium such as cardboard, found objects, styrofoam, metal etc..... He was also a painter and draftsman. He worked relentlessly!! He was also brilliant! read avidly , studied yoga, mysticism and practiced sufi for 3 decades.
    George PISSARRO was an artist ! he cared nothing about the material life and had a lot of integrity. I was his friend from the moment he arrived in NY in the mid seventies until the day he died and i miss the conversations we had about matters that were dear to our hearts: ART and BEING.
    Adeline www.adelinette.com

  9. Adeline, thank you so much for sharing your expertise and inside knowledge of George Pissarro! It might be time to revisit him ... your comment, and the comment above, make me think I gave him kind of short shrift. Thank you!