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    Sale 1995

    Impressionist And Modern Art Day Sale

    7 May 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 408

    Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)

    La récolte des pommes de terre, Pontoise

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
    La récolte des pommes de terre, Pontoise
    signed and dated 'C.Pissarro.74' (lower left)
    oil on canvas
    13 x 16¼ in. (33 x 41.3 cm.)
    Painted in 1874


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    In 1874, the trajectory of Camille Pissarro's painting underwent a dramatic development. The artist had been living since 1872 in Pontoise, where he had previously resided between 1867 and 1869. But in the year of the present work, Pissarro began to spend more time at the home of his close friend Ludovic Piette in Montfoucault. There, the landscape and farming methods were more rustic than in Pontoise, with its modernized agriculture. In a letter to the critic Théodore Duret, Pissarro tellingly refers to Mayenne, Montfoucault's capital, as "the true countryside."

    This more rural environment was largely responsible for the artist's turn to earthy hues and more solidly constructed figures, which became more firmly integrated within his landscapes. Duret himself also had a crucial impact on this shift from Pissarro's classic Pontoise period to what Richard Bretell calls "The New Ruralism" (op. cit., p. 160).
    A champion of Pissarro's work, Duret maintained a correspondence with the artist, throughout which he encouraged Pissarro's aptitude for "nature, with its rustic fields and its animals." Duret continued, in a letter to the artist from 6 December 1873:

    You do not have the decorative feeling of Sisley, nor the fantastic eye of Monet, but you do have what they don't, an intimate and profound feeling for nature, and a power in your brush that makes a good painting by you something with an absolute presence" (quoted in ibid., p. 165).

    The present canvas represents an early and exemplary model of these stylistic changes. Deep, autumnal reds, greens and golds emphasize the harvest season; used to depict both the figures and their landscape, these earth tones create a link between farmer and field. Pissarro has constructed the composition with thick brushstrokes, as if paint and dirt were one and the same. And there is a dense substantiality to the multi-hued layers of hills, which eclipse all but a tiny sliver of sky from the picture. Brettell attests to the innovative status of the present canvas within the artist's oeuvre:

    La récolte des pommes de terre looks astonishing to a student of Pissarro's landscapes of the classic Pontoise period without the direct evidence of the Duret-Pissarro correspondence in December 1873, one would be inclined to reject the date of 1874 for this picture (op. cit., p. 166).

    Though it represented a new direction for Pissarro, this shift of the mid-1870s harkens back to the artist's predecessor in the depiction of peasant labor, Jean-François Millet. Duret was once again instrumental in this regard, having mentioned the Barbizon painter to Pissarro in a letter from this period. But if Pissarro was looking towards Millet in 1874, another artist was learning from Pissarro. Paul Cézanne had moved to Pontoise in 1872 upon Pissarro's suggestion, relocating to the nearby town of Auvers a year later. It was there that he executed Small Houses at Auvers (fig. 1) which depicts the same white farmhouse as Pissarro's painting, against the same layered hillside.

    Pissarro's innovations of 1874 would also come to influence his own subsequent production. A gouache executed in 1886 (fig. 2; Pissarro and Venturi, no. 1405) translates virtually the exact composition of the present painting into a different medium, testifying to the importance this subject held for the artist.



    (fig. 1) Paul Cézanne, Les petites maisons à Auvers, 1874-75. Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge.

    (fig. 2) Camille Pissarro, La récolte des pommes de terre, 1886. Private collection.

    Provenance

    Estate of the artist.
    Lucien Pissarro, London (by descent from the above).
    Private collection, London (circa 1940).
    By descent from the above to the present owner.


    Pre-Lot Text

    WORKS FROM A PRIVATE LONDON COLLECTION


    Christie's is delighted to offer for sale a selection of oils and works on paper from a private London collection. Unveiled to the public art market for the first-time since the parents of the present owner acquired them in the 1940s and 1950s, these works are, nonetheless, very well known to connoisseurs and academic institutions through important exhibitions to which they have been generously lent over the past decades. They have been the pride and joy of two generations of collectors, gracing the walls of the beautiful London houses where the owners lived with their children and grandchildren.

    The family's passion for art took root in the 1920s--love for art and music was always encouraged. In the early 1930s, it became a real commitment, especially for the parents of the present owner. They soon became enlightened, daring, risk-taking collectors, immersed in the contemporary art scene of their time, visiting regularly galleries and museums in London and Paris, befriending the most important dealers of their generation, meeting the most renowned artists, from Chagall to Léger, and even financially supporting artists of the Ecole de Paris, such as Atlan, through yearly contracts and constant acquisitions.

    Art became an intrinsic, fundamental part of family life--the children grew up surrounded by these pictures and were the subjects of tender portraits by the artists, who dedicated them works at pivotal moments of their lives (marriages, births).

    The selection of works, offered for sale by Christie's in four different locations in the forthcoming months (Tel Aviv, Amsterdam, New York and London), underlines a unique sense of appreciation of rarity and beauty, that one finds only in the most sincere art-lovers and collectors.

    In this sale, works from this collection are lots 408-415.

    Property of a Private Collector


    Literature

    "Camille Pissarro. Works on View at Leeds Art Gallery," The Yorkshire Post, 4 July 1932.
    E. Newton, "Rochdale Art Gallery, Paintings by Pissarro," The Rochdale Observer, 29 October 1932.
    L.-R. Pissarro and L. Venturi, Camille Pissarro, son art-son oeuvre, Paris, 1939, vol. I, no. 295 (illustrated vol. II, pl. 59).
    R.R. Brettell, Pissarro and Pontoise. The Painter in a Landscape, New Haven, 1990, pp. 166-167, 171, 176 and 204 (illustrated in color, p. 167, fig. 146; detail illustrated in color, p. 169, pl. 147).
    J. Pissarro, Camille Pissarro, New York, 1993, pp. 115 and 217; p. 298, note 7 (illustrated in color, p. 126, fig. 127).
    B. Lantow, "Pissarro contre la A104," Vivre en Val-d'Orse, June-August 1998, no. 50, pp. 23-24 (illustrated in color, p. 24).
    M.-J. Pellé, "Vert Pissarro" Impressions de Normandie et d'ailleurs, Luneray, 2000, pp. 60-61.
    J. Pissarro and C. Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro, Catalogue critique des peintures, Paris, 2005, vol. II, p. 274, no. 360 (illustrated in color).


    Exhibited

    Kunsthalle Bremen, Grosse Kunstausstellung, February-March 1910, no. 263.
    London, Stafford Gallery, Pictures by Camille Pissarro, October 1911, no. 23.
    Paris, Galerie Manzi-Joyant, Exposition rétrospective d'oeuvres de Camille Pissarro, January-February 1914, no. 99bis.
    London, Tate Gallery (no. 36); Birmingham, City Museum and Art Gallery (no. 30); Nottingham, Nottingham Castle and Art Gallery (no. 16); Stockport, War Memorial Buildings (no. 15); Sheffield, Mappin Art Gallery (no. 16); Bootle, Bootle Museum (no. 14); Leeds City Art Gallery (no. 14); Northampton Art Gallery (no. 25); Blackpool, Grundy Art Gallery (no. 25) and Rochdale, Rochdale Corporation Art Gallery (no. 25), Oil Paintings by Camille Pissarro, June 1931-November 1932.
    London, Matthiesen Gallery, A Camille Pissarro Exhibition, June-July 1950, no. 9.
    Glasgow, McLellan Galleries, Festival of Jewish Arts, February 1951, no. 102.
    London, Ben Uri Gallery, Coronation Exhibition of Paintings, 1953 (incorrectly catalogued as "Collection of Lucien Pissarro").
    London, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley, June-July 1955, no. 7.
    London, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., Pissarro in England, June-July 1968, no. 6.
    London, Royal Academy of Arts, Impressionism: Its Masters, Its Precursors and its Influence in Britain, February-April 1974, no. 86. Tokyo, Isetan Museum of Art; Fukuoka Museum of Art, and Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, Rétrospective Camille Pissarro, March-July 1984, no. 23.
    Ferrara, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Camille Pissarro, February-May 1998, no. 19 (illustrated, p. 52).
    Böblingen, Städtische Galerie (no. 8); Pontoise, Musée Tavet-Delacour (no. 8); Tokyo, Mitsukoshi Gallery (no. 3); Hiroshima, Onomichi Municipal Museum (no. 3) and Shuzuoka, Hamamatsu Municipal Museum of Art (no. 3), Entre ciel et terre: Camille Pissarro et les peintres de la vallée de l'Oise, September 2003-June 2004.
    New York, The Museum of Modern Art; The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Paris, Musée d'Orsay, Pioneering Modern Painting: Cézanne and Pissarro 1865-1885, June 2005-May 2006, no. 43 (illustrated, p. 134).