Armand Guillaumin (1841-1927) part II

It was in 1886 that Guillaumin married and settled down in a new address in the Saint-Sulpice area of Paris. By this time his close artistic relationship with Pissarro had dissolved with the latter’s experiments with pointillism and Guillaumin’s increasingly romantic art. By the end of the decade, abandoned by the travelling Gauguin, Guillaumin became a close friend and mentor to Van Gogh who was to provide an interesting stimulus to Guillaumin’s work.

Although Guillaumin by this time was more separate from the avant-garde than he had been since the beginning of the impressionist movement, there is evidence to suggest that the growing symbolist and post impressionist movements found much in his work to commend and admire, and in 1890 he made his return to the Independants after an absence of six years.

The first years of the 1890’s saw a reduction of Guillaumin’s circle with the deaths of Vincent Van Gogh and his brother (who was acting as his dealer), the moving away from Paris of Gauguin and Cezanne and the further artistic separation from Pissarro. All this occurred in the light of the meteoric rise of the symbolist movement of which Guillaumin played little part. In 1891 one of the Bonds he held paid a special premium of 100,000 gold francs, which had a profound effect on his lifestyle. He no longer felt the need to please patrons and critics and was able to pursue his own private artistic goals away from the pressures of the avant-garde. He travelled throughout France in these years, painting a great many mountain and coastal scenes often in the early part of the day or at sunset, and as such his continual fascination with strong vibrant colours and the effects of light grew. Much of Guillaumin’s work at this time appears to anticipate the later work of the Fauves. In the latter 1890’s Guillaumin’s colour became more subtle and his painting more uniform showing the work of an artist at home with his style. The Great War provided the only interruption to his travelling which he resumed at its end at the age of 77, visiting his favourite areas of Agay and Crozant. In the 1920’s age was reducing Guillaumin’s output, but instead of being forgotten he was the subject of various monographs and in 1926 a retrospective exhibition at the Salon d’Automne. Critical appreciation of his work reached something of a peak in these years with a monograph by Des Courieres stating that “we have to recognise that in the domain of painting Guillaumin occupies a higher sphere” than Morisot, Sisley and Pissarro. He died amid such praise in 1927.

Although never reaching the fame of his contemporaries, his pioneering spirit and devotion to the impressionist technique made him one of the few artists that critics agree epitomise true classic impressionism, a select group that would include the likes of Monet, Pissarro and Morisot.

See the beginning of this article in part I

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