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Two masters, side by side


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For 20 years, master artists Paul Cezanne and Camille Pissarro worked closely together -- often side by side -- painting the same French chateau or rolling hills.

Pissarro and Cezanne influenced each other, just as they helped define the Impressionist movement that dominated Europe during the late 19th century.

"Pioneering Modern Painting: Cezanne and Pissarro 1865-1885" provides powerful evidence how both artists captured the blossoming world of Impressionism, but also how their subtle differences in style grew steadily over the years.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is the only West Coast venue for this exhibition, which next travels to the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. It was organized by Joachim Pissarro, the great-grandson of Camille Pissarro.

Cezanne and Pissarro met in 1861. Pissarro, who was nine years older, quickly became a mentor to Cezanne. The exhibition, arranged chronologically, opens with a pair of landscapes titled "Louveciennes." Cezanne painted his in response to Pissarro's, echoing his mentor's style but intensifying the colors and applying broader brush strokes.

The friends frequently shared a studio or they traveled together to the rural areas outside of Paris. Pissarro taught Cezanne to focus on technique more than subject matter.

Gradually, Pissarro began adapting the Pointillist method, in which tiny dots of primary colors are used to generate secondary colors. Cezanne began combining carefully applied strokes of paint with unpainted sections of the canvas, creating a patchwork of colors that suggests an image.

By the show's last gallery, the artists' canvases differ dramatically. But it seems clear that without the opportunity to learn from each other and to urge for greater experimentation, neither Pissarro nor Cezanne would have reached their potential shown in these masterpieces.

"Pioneering Modern Painting: Cezanne and Pissarro 1865-1885" is up through Jan. 16 at LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. Admission is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and students, and free for children 17 and younger. The museum is open from noon to 8 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, from noon to 9 p.m. Fridays and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

For more information, call 1-323-857-6000 or visit the Web site, http://www.lacma.org.

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