Pontoise/Saint-Ouen-l'Aumône (Pissarro)

We have no idea about how many more days we’ll be forced to be moored in Pontoise/Saint-Ouen-l'Aumône. From the moment we arrived, Friday the 17th of July, we did not get any further response from three(!) engineers whom all promised to either call back or visit us. So, instead of a picture of our mooring spot here’s one of the view of the walls that were a part of Pontoise’s former castle as seen from our position on the river Oise. The building on top of it is the Musée (Camille) Pissarro.

We decided to visit the museum. After all, (Jacob Abraham) Camille Pissarro (1830 – 1903) is an important impressionist-painter, isn’t he? A stiff climb led to the entrance of the museum, only open to the public in the afternoon from Wednesday to Sunday – free admission. For more about Camille Pissarro see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camille_Pissarro.

Here’s the first work of art by the master himself. It’s called ‘La Brouette, verger’ (the wheelbarrow, orchard), created in 1879. It’s borrowed from Musée d’Orsay; the latter has lots –well, a fair number- of Pissarro’s works (and of his contemporaries).

Another (Camille) Pissarro, less recognizable as one of his we think, called ‘Péniche sur la Seine’ (inland commercial boat on the Seine), created in 1864. Camille Pissarro, of combined Danish and French nationality, was a ‘Pontoisien’ from 1866 for three years. According to the explanation next to this painting Pissarro created over 300 paintings between 1866 and 1884 in or around Pontoise. Pontoise not only offered a direct train-link to Paris as from 1865, there was a river, rural area with farms and market gardens as well as city life. Furthermore churches, markets and even factories. In short, all subjects-to-paint he was looking for.

Pissarro married, in 1871, Julie Vellay, the daughter of a wine-grower from Bourgogne, a servant of his parents. She was pregnant with their fourth child when they married. Pissarro’s father ended his allowance because of the ‘scandal’. Camille and Julie had eight children eventually, some of their sons became painters, too. One of them is Lucien Pissarro (1863 – 1944). This is one of his works, called ‘Le Forêt de Pins’ (The pine-forest), created in 1892. Lucien became a British citizen in 1916/7 and died in Hewood (Dorset). He donated his collection of his father’s works to the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. For more about Lucien, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucien_Pissarro.

Another painting son of Pissarro sr was Georges Manzana-Pissarro (1871 – 1961). This work of him, ‘Neige sur la Seine’ (Snow on the Seine), was created in 1902. In 1894 he choose the name of one of his grandmothers, Manzana, as a pseudonym. Later on, in 1910, he adopted the name Manzana-Pissarro for the rest of his long life. Apart from painting he was involved in several other forms of art. More about him at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Henri_Manzana_Pissarro.

Here’s a Henri Matisse, called ‘Nature morte aux Livres’ (still life with books). We’ll not dwell too much on other painters than the Pissarros. After all this is a ‘Pissarro-museum’. For all who are interested in more about Matisse, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Matisse and beyond.

The museum is to be found at the end of La Rue du Château. This painting, made in 1875 by Ludovic Piette (1826 – 1878), is called ‘Vue prise en haut de la Rue du Château’ (View from the high situated Castle-street (adapted)) - 1878. Piette was Pissarro sr’s most intimate friend. For more, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludovic_Piette, a portrait of Piette by Pissarro included. We walked towards the exact spot from where this painting was made to make a matching picture. That proved impossible because the little house in the foreground is now replaced by a larger one, obscuring the cathedral from view.

Piette is well represented in the Musée Pissarro. Rightfully so, we think, because his works are absolutely worthy of our admiration. This one is called ‘Le Marché aux Légumes’ (The vegetable-market), Pontoise, Place du petit Martroy, dating from 1876.

This Piette is called ‘Le Marché à la Volaille’ (The poultry market), Pontoise, Place de L'hôtel de Ville, again dating from 1876. We’ve looked hard and long but were unable to discover the poultry. It would have been easy to picture this square as it is now – and very recognizable too. All the parked cars kept us from doing it. A pity!

A third one by the same painter, this one called ‘Fête Boulevard des Fossés’ (translation superfluous) - 1877. Nowadays this boulevard is called Boulevard Jean-Jaurès, reason why we were initially unable to find it.

Another painter then, by the name of William Thornley (1857 – 1935). See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_William_Thornley in case you think you should know more about him. This work of art is called ‘Vue du Chevet de Saint-Maclou’ (View of the chancel of the Saint-Maclou) – not dated. It is Pontoise’s cathedral. We had never heard of a saint of this name. It appears to be Saint Malo in English or Sint Machutus in Dutch. All very obvious! It’s the first painting we were able…

…to copy by making a picture from more or less the same spot the painter has been sitting over a 100 years ago. We could do without the cars. On the other hand the flower-decorations are more exuberant than in the old days. The picture contains, just partly visible, only one person - contrary to the painting.

The museum is surrounded by a little park, named the ‘Jardin des Cinq Sens’ (Garden of the five Senses) at the same level as the museum, thus offering some nice views over the town of Pontoise. This is one of them – mainly picturing the old town…

…followed by one that combines the old town with a new urban part of it. The combined towns of Pontoise, Cergy amd some minor ones, called the ‘Communauté d'agglomération de Cergy-Pontoise’ consists of almost 185.000 inhabitants.

L'Oise at Pontoise - Saint-Ouen-l'Aumône

Being at this high point of view in the garden of the five senses, having nice weather, the surroundings… it was all too tempting not to make a short video. Starting with the museum the upstream river Oise becomes visible, approaching from the north-east. In the middle of the river are two islands in line, to be passed on the left side (see the moving boat and the signs on the bridge), followed by the bridge, leading from Pontoise to Saint-Ouen-l'Aumône. Then we zoom in on our little ship. The next feature is the impressive, wide (6 tracks?) railway-bridge. Towards the end of video with a view to the south, the downstream river again divides into two arms. On the right hand side is the weir, the arm on the left hand side leads into Pontoise’s double-lock, just not visible. The lock-chambers are 165 and 135 meters (550 and 450 feet) long. The lock keeper calls the latter ‘le petit’. We were in it; it did not give us a ‘petit’ impression at all!

Of course the old town of Pontoise houses more than only the museum we commented on. The second oldest (after Paris) but the oldest active settlement in France of the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel or Carmelites is to be found here. The entrance radiates ancient times all over. More about the Carmelites: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carmelites.

One of Pontoise’s famous sons to end with: Charles Victoire Emmanuel Leclerc (1772 – 1802). He was born in Pontoise and became a French Army general. There are more of them, we know, but in his case there was a special circumstance. He was married to one of Napoléon Bonaparte’s sisters, Pauline. She was receiving a large number of suitors, thus pressing her brother Napoleon to have her married off. Leclerc accepted Bonaparte's offer of Pauline's hand in marriage and they married in 1797. He died at the young age of 30 of yellow fever when on the island of Saint-Domingue. The highly interesting story is too long for this blog so read, if you like: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint-Domingue_expedition and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Leclerc. The statue at Pontoise shows Leclerc in Napoleonic uniform, his scabbard touching the earth. It was put up by marshal Davout and his second wife Louise-Aimée-Julie (Leclerc's sister) at the top of a staircase built in 1869 by François Lemot. Around 3m high, the statue is on a square stone pedestal inscribed with information on him in gold majuscule letters. It adjoins the south side of city's cathedral. The picture does not do complete justice to the situation. It’s a fairly steep, wide, street –the Rue Thiers- leading up towards the statue and the cathedral. Really impressive! À bientôt.