Worcester Art Museum Acquires Recovered Pissarro Painting

WORCESTER, MASS., April 9, 1999 - The Worcester Art Museum is pleased to announce it has acquired Bassins Duquesne et Berrigny a Dieppe, Temps Gris (Harbor at Dieppe), a painting by Camille Pissarro, which was formerly owned by Worcester philanthropists Robert and Helen Stoddard. The Museum will acquire this important French Impressionist work through the Stoddard Acquisition Fund, which is used solely for purchasing art.

Once it arrives at the Worcester Art Museum, the painting will undergo a conservation treatment in preparation for Pissarro and Other Masters: The Stoddard Legacy, which will open in February 2000. This show will feature the Pissarro and other works that once hung in the Stoddard home, as well as the art the Museum purchased in the last two decades with proceeds from the Stoddard Acquisition Fund. After the Stoddard Charitable Trust established this sizeable fund in 1979, the Museum was able to add significantly to its permanent collection many distinguished works of art ranging from a 17th-century portrait by Dutch master Frans Hals, to a vibrant genre scene by Jacob Lawrence, the most noted 20th-century African American artist.

"Helen and Robert Stoddard were great lovers of art and had a wonderful relationship with the Worcester Art Museum starting in the 1940s," says James A. Welu, director of the Worcester Art Museum. "In addition to their great leadership and extensive volunteer efforts, they enabled us to acquire many fine works of art over the years, and we are extremely grateful for their friendship and generosity. I am particularly pleased that Bassins Duquesne et Berrigny Dieppe, Temps Gris will be added to the permanent collection of the Worcester Art Museum, which was the wish of Mrs. Stoddard." This painting, which dates from 1902, joins an earlier work by Pissarro, L'ille Lacroix à Rouen, which was painted in 1873 and came to the Museum through the estate of Robert W. Stoddard.

Stole from the Stoddard's Worcester home in 1978, Bassins Duquesne et Berrigny Dieppe, Temps Gris was lost for two decades. After the theft, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company reimbursed the Stoddards for their loss. On October 22, 1998, the FBI seized the painting from Wolf's Auction Gallery in Cleveland, Ohio. At the time of the seizure, the painting was about to be sold after Ohio businessman Daniel Zivko and Kenneth Bement had consigned it to the gallery. On April 8, 1999, Zivko, Bement, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, the Stoddard estate, and the Worcester Art Museum settled the matter in a Cleveland court cast. The decision will result in the painting coming to the Worcester Art Museum for its permanent collection.

French Impressionism was a favorite of the Stoddards, who collected other masters from this school, including Renoir and Sisley. Bassins Duquesne et Berrigny Dieppe, Temps Gris hung over the Stoddard's mantle piece from 1951 to 1978. After the theft of this painting, the Stoddards acquired several other pictures, including Pissarro's L'ille Lacroix à Rouen, which took the treasured spot over the mantlepiece. Both of these Pissarro paintings will now hang together for the first time ever, at the Worcester Art Museum.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), was a prolific artist, creating more than 1,800 paintings in his lifetime. Born to a Jewish family in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, Pissarro attended boarding school in the suburbs of Paris where the headmaster encouraged his artistic talents. After working in the family business for a short time, Pissarro returned to Paris in 1855 to pursue an artistic career. He had a strong and deliberate style that featured a highly disciplined method of working, including a light palette and a varied application of paint.

Known as the "patriarch of French Impressionism," Pissarro was a moral and artistic role model to many of the famous French Impressionists, including Renoir, Monet, and Sisley. Pissarro had a particularly strong influence on Cézanne and Gauguin.

A peaceful but committed renegade, Pissarro helped organize the eight French Impressionist exhibitions in protest of the official Salon. He was the only member of the Impressionists to participate in all eight of these exhibitions. His style was called simple and naïeve by some, but always honest. His was devoted to artistic truth and his fellow men.

In 1886-87, Pissarro joined the ranks of the Neo-Impressionists and took up the pointillist technique (separating colors into little dots). This led to the estrangement of his critics and admirers. He returned to Impressionism and once again painted rural scenes and cityscapes, such as the painting the Worcester Art Museum recently acquired.

Pissarro sold few paintings during his lifetime. He lost nearly 1,500 paintings representing 20 years of work during the Franco-Prussian War, adding to his financial dilemma. To support his wife and eight children, Pissarro tried other artistic pursuits such as painting fans, blinds and shop signs, as well as making etchings.

Pissarro's writings, including his many letters to his son Lucien, are one of the most important documents on the beliefs of the Impressionists. His letters also reveal a great deal about his own personal aspirations. In one of his letters to Lucien, Pissarro wrote: "Painting, art in general, is what enchants me - it is my life. What else matters? When you put all your soul into a work, all that is noble in you, you cannot fail to find a kindred soul who understands you, and you do not need a host of such spirits."

The Worcester Art Museum is honored to add Camille Pissarro's Bassins Duquesne et Berrigny Dieppe, Temps Gris to its permanent collection in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Robert W. Stoddard.

Museum Background

Opened to the public in 1898, the Worcester Art Museum is the second largest art museum in New England. Its exceptional 35,000-piece collection of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photography, prints and drawings is displayed in 36 galleries and spans 5,000 years of art and culture, ranging from Egyptian antiquities and Roman mosaics to Impressionist paintings and contemporary art. Throughout its first century, the Worcester Art Museum proved itself a pioneer: the first American museum to purchase work by Claude Monet (1910) and Paul Gauguin (1921); the first museum to bring a medieval building to America (1927); a sponsor of the first major excavation at Antioch, one of the four great cities of ancient Rome (1932); the first museum to create an Art All-State program for high school artists (1987); the originator of the first exhibition of Dutch master Judith Leyster (1993); and the first museum to focus its contemporary art programs on art of the last 10 years (1998). The Museum's hours are: Wednesday through Sunday, 11am-5pm, and Saturday 10am-5pm. Admission: FREE for members; Non-members: $8 Adults; $6 Seniors and full-time college students with current ID; FREE for youth 17 and under; FREE for everyone Saturday mornings 10am-noon sponsored by The TJX Companies and Massachusetts Electric Company. For more information, call (508) 799-4406 or visit the Museum at 55 Salisbury Street in Worcester.