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Rodney Nevitt, School of Art, University of Houston

Spring 2015


The following paintings are in Room 222 (the Pissarro) and Room 223 (the Van Gogh) on the
second floor of the Beck Building of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 5601 Main Street. Hours:
Tues, Wed, 10am-5pm; Thurs 10am-9pm; Fri, Sat, 10am-7pm; Sun, 12:15-7pm, closed most
Mondays except holidays.
Camille Pissarro, The Goose Girl at Montfoucault, White Frost, 1875
Oil on canvas, The John A. and Audrey Jones Beck Collection 98.295
Vincent van Gogh, The Rocks, 1888
Oil on canvas, The John A. and Audrey Jones Beck Collection 74.139
Write a five-page paper (typed, double-spaced) in which you discuss these two paintings. Read the
sections in Gardner on Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. No further research is necessary.
Your paper should focus on the stylistic changes involved in the shift from "Impressionism"
to "Post-Impressionism" as exemplified in these paintings. Van Gogh--as Gardner explains--was
influenced by, but also reacted against, certain aspects of Impressionism (represented here by
Pissarro). Explain this historical development more fully in reference to these paintings.
The paper should be a careful visual analysis of the paintings, at the same time
incorporating your specific observations into the larger scheme of the development from
Impressionism to the Post-Impressionist style of Van Gogh. Discuss each painting in the context of
what you have learned about that artist from the Gardner book and from class lecture. Points to
consider include the following. How does each painting relate to the broader characteristics of the
artist's work, and of Impressionism (for Pissarro) and Post-Impressionism (for Van Gogh) in
general, as discussed in Gardner and in class lectures? You may compare the paintings at the
museum to other paintings in the Gardner text by these artists. With regard to the paintings in the
museum, consider the artists style: including the quality of the brushstroke (its width, the
thickness of paint, directionality and other characteristics), and the use of color. Think about the
quality of light in the scene. To what degree is the artist sensitive to the element of time, and does
the landscape seem to record a particular time of day or season of the yearor not? How does the
artist distinguish different textures: grass, foliage, stone, wood, etc.? (Or is the texture of the
painting more about the materiality of paint rather than that of the object depicted?) Think about
what the artist is looking at and how he composes the scene. Note the viewpoint within the scene:
does the artist seem to be looking at, down, or up at the scene and does this affect your reaction to
the landscape in any way? What are the general spatial qualities of the landscape: does it convey a
sense of depth or is it relatively flat? Is there a human presence in the landscape and what effect
does this have? What kind of landscape is depicted in the painting: wild or cultivated, i.e.,
including or bearing the imprint of a human presence? Finally, can you link up any of these
observations of the paintings visual qualities and subject-matter with the underlying ideas and
motivations behind the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist movements, and the artistic ideas of
these artists, as recounted in Gardner and in class lectures?
You do not have to devote equal time to all of these questions with regard to each painting.
The important thing is to relate your visual observations of each painting to what you know about
the artist's style and ideas about art, and to organize these points into a coherent argument about the
development of landscape painting from Impressionism to Post-Impressionism. The paper will be
graded equally on the content AND the quality of writing.