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    Sale 2164

    Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale

    6 May 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 23

    Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)

    Les coteaux de Thierceville vus de la cavée, environs d'Éragny

    Price Realised  

    Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
    Les coteaux de Thierceville vus de la cavée, environs d'Éragny
    signed and dated 'C. Pissarro. 1884' (lower left)
    oil on canvas
    21¼ x 25 5/8 in. (53.9 x 65.1 cm.)
    Painted in 1884


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    Pissarro painted the luminous Les Coteaux de Thierceville in mid-1884, during the first summer he spent in his new home in Éragny. The artist had been living in Osny, near Pontoise, for the previous two years, but the growing size of his family--he had four young children living at home, with another due in August--required that he find a larger house. Pontoise, where the artist had worked extensively during the 1870s and the early 1880s, had become too expensive. Other locales lacked interest as subjects for his landscape paintings, or were simply too bourgeois and developed for his liking. He wrote to his son Lucien on 1 March 1884: "We've made up our minds on Éragny-sur-Epte. The house is superb and inexpensive: a thousand francs, with garden and meadow. It's two hours from Paris. I found the region much more beautiful than Compiègne" (Letters, vol. 1, no. 222). The Pissarro family moved to Éragny in early April. They rented the two-storied farmhouse, which still exists today at 29, rue Camille-Pissarro, for the next eight years, and then finally purchased it in 1892 with the aid of a loan from Claude Monet. On 9 April, Pissarro wrote to his dealer Durand-Ruel: "I haven't been able to resist painting, so beautiful are the views all around my garden. So I began work yesterday, eager to resume my daily routine" (Letters, vol. 1, no. 231).

    Éragny, situated in the Vexin, the region bordering Normandy northwest of Paris, was a small village of fewer than 500 inhabitants. Nearby Gisors was a more sizable town and had a lively market. Beyond the field adjacent to his home, and across a bridge over the river Epte, lay the village of Bazincourt, whose tall church steeple became a frequent motif in Pissarro's Éragny landscapes. Thierceville is a small hamlet near Bazincourt. Using his ingenious rolling easel as he moved in ever-widening circles from his home, Pissarro looked from his vantage point on a cavée, a country lane, down the side of a knoll towards the houses in Thierceville, and across the fields to the hills beyond. He painted the hills near Thierceville on only one other occasion (see J. Pissarro and C. Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, no. 859). Here Pissarro leads the viewer's eye along an oblique descending line, marked by the tops of the trees in the foreground, across alternating strata of green open fields and bordering mauve-toned wooded areas; the receding landscape then rises beyond the village to a high and distant horizon line set against a hazy summer sky. Pissarro worked up a richly textured surface to render the dappled foliage, and used small, comma-like brushstrokes and a high-keyed, light-drenched palette to capture the atmospheric effect of shimmering midday summer heat.

    Les Coteaux de Thierceville initially came to America early in its life--its first private owner was Charles Tyson Yerkes (1837-1905), one of the most infamous "Robber Barons" of late 19th century American capitalism, who purchased the painting from Durand-Ruel in 1891. Yerkes opened his own brokerage firm at the age of 23 in Philadelphia, the city of his birth. He lost his first fortune in the collapse of the national bond market in 1871, and then served prison time for bribing local officials and embezzlement. Following his pardon he returned to banking and focused his interests on railways and urban transit. In 1881 he relocated to Chicago, where he bought up streetcar lines and built the elevated railways which today serve the famous Loop in downtown Chicago. To polish his public image, he financed the Yerkes Observatory for the University of Chicago. He later became involved in the construction of the London Underground, and spent his final years in New York. Yerkes' business practices were often ruthless and unscrupulous; such was his reputation that the crusading novelist Theodore Dreiser based on him the character of the financier Frank Cowperwood in his series The Trilogy of Desire. Durand-Ruel bought back Les Coteaux de Thierceville following the legal settlement of Yerkes' estate in 1911 and subsequently resold it in Europe. The picture traveled again to America following its acquisition in 1965 by Wildenstein, who sold it to the present owner the following year.

    Provenance

    Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired from the artist, 31 October 1884).
    Charles T. Yerkes, Chicago (acquired from the above, 10 October 1891). Emilie Grigsby, New York; sale, The Anderson Auction Company, New York, 22 January 1912, lot 1150.
    Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York (acquired at the above sale).
    N.D. Jay, Paris (circa 1957).
    Baron Louis de Chollet, Fribourg.
    Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York (acquired from the above, 1965).
    Acquired from the above by the late owner, 1966.


    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from the Estate of Fred S. Strauss

    Christie's is delighted to present at sale Property from the Estate of Fred S. Strauss which will be featured in the Impressionist and Modern Evening and Day sales.

    Fred S. Strauss, who died in October 2008 at the age of ninety-four, displayed an independent and courageous spirit throughout his long and eventful life. Among his many notable business achievements was his role as President of Harte and Co. and as Vice-President and Board Member for Diamond Shamrock Oil and Gas.

    Social responsibility and philanthropy were equally important to Fred S. Strauss. Together with his beloved wife of fifty-three years, Marji, he committed a great deal of time and effort to numerous charitable causes. Among his accomplishments in this field was his co-founding of the Children's Cancer & Blood Foundation, one of the largest and oldest charitable organization in the United States dedicated to the care of children suffering from blood diseases and cancers. He also established the Max and Ida Foundation which contributed to many hospitals over the past decades.

    Alongside his dedication to charities, Jewish life was crucial to Fred S. Strauss. He was a devoted member of the Congregation of Emanu-El of the City of New York. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the Zimmerman Strauss Museum of Jewish history at Nidda in Germany, dedicated to the memory of the innocent lives lost in the Second World War.

    PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF FRED S. STRAUSS


    Literature

    L.-R. Pissarro and L. Venturi, Camille Pissarro, son art, son oeuvre, Paris, 1939, vol. I, p. 172, no. 648 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 133).
    C. Kunstler, Pissarro, villes et campagnes, Lausanne, 1967, p. 39 (illustrated, pl. 18).
    L.-R. Pissarro and L. Venturi, Camille Pissarro, son art--son oeuvre, Paris, 1939, vol. I, p. 172, no. 648 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 133).
    J. Pissarro and C. Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro, Catalogue critique des peintures, Paris, 2005, vol. III, p. 511, no. 771 (illustrated).


    Exhibited

    Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Pissarro, June-September 1956, no. 59.
    Bern, Kunstmuseum, Camille Pissarro, January-March 1957, p. 15, no. 74.
    New York, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., One Hundred Years of Impressionism: A Tribute to Paul Durand-Ruel, April-May 1970.