Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
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Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)

Poiriers en fleur, Eragny

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
Poiriers en fleur, Eragny
signed and dated 'C. Pissarro.94' (lower left)
oil on canvas
21½ x 25 3/8 in. (54.6 x 64.5 cm.)
Painted in 1894
Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, by whom acquired from the artist on 10 April 1895.
Collection Wirtz, Germany.
Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York, circa 1957.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1957.
L.-R. Pissarro & L. Venturi, Camille Pissarro: son art - son oeuvre, vol. I, Paris, 1939, no. 876, p. 203 (illustrated vol. II, pl. 178).
L.-R. Pissarro & L. Venturi, Camille Pissarro: son art - son oeuvre, vol. I, San Francisco, 1989, no. 876, p. 203 (illustrated vol. II, pl. 178).
J. Pissarro & C, Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro: catalogue critique des peintures, vol. III, Paris, 2005, no. 1029 (illustrated p. 661).
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Lot Essay

Painted in 1894, Poiriers en fleur, Eragny is a bloom-filled image of Spring. In this picture, the artist has captured the light effects and even some sense of the fluttering blossom and rustling leaves through dappled, darting brushstrokes of colour that lend the work a great vibrancy.

Pissarro's landscapes are filled with a vitality, they appear to breathe nature, they have an openness and even a breeziness that perfectly translates his love of the outdoors. Nature's infinite variety was the greatest of his inspirations, as was reflected in his maxim that, 'An Impressionist is a painter who never makes the same painting twice' (Pissarro, quoted in R.E. Shikes & P. Harper, Pissarro: His Life and Work, New York, 1980, p.311). In Poiriers en fleur, Eragny, the energetic, scintillating brushstrokes speak of the artist's vigour in capturing this scene. The picture itself gives a sense of pleinairisme: the viewer is able to imagine Pissarro outdoors capturing this scene. However, the sheer number of brushstrokes imply that the work may have been finished in his studio, a practice that he had increasingly advocated following his involvement only years earlier with the Neo-Impressionists, and which he welcomed when he heard that his son was beginning to adopt it in his own works:
'I learn with pleasure that you have begun painting in the studio... It is certain that work in the studio is identical from the point of difficulty with work in the outdoors, but it is absolutely different from the point of view of métier, methods and results. It does not do to seek from studio work that which is not possible, just as out of doors it doesn't do to seek anything except direct and instantaneous sensations' (Pissarro, quoted in K. Adler, Camille Pissarro: a biography, London, 1978, p. 138).

In Poiriers en fleur, Eragny, it appears that the initial 'instantaneous sensations' have been amplified by the highly-finished effect of the dense multitude of tiny painterly marks, which appear to indicate Pissarro's working in the studio. There is a contrast between the almost point-like brushstrokes with which he has captured the foliage and the more feathered, more classically Impressionistic brushstrokes that he has used in other parts of the picture, for instance the ground in the foreground and the sky. This creates an important textural contrast that brings the viewer's attention all the more to the pear trees themselves, and their blossom. Although Pissarro was no longer involved directly with Neo-Impressionism, the tiny brushstrokes with which Pissarro has so meticulously built up the forms of the trees, their leaves and the blossom show the lingering influence of that movement, which he had briefly espoused but had only recently abandoned. In fact, Pissarro had already been working towards a similar concept of colour use to that of the Neo-Impressionists before meeting the younger, pioneering artists Seurat and Signac. However, his use of these juxtaposed brushstrokes of colour that deliberately played off each other featured in Pissarro's work as a natural development of his Impressionism, as opposed to the light and colour theories, the ideas about the actual function of the eye, that had led to some of the developments of his young friends. It is this painterly development of a flecked manner of rendering the world pictorially that is evident in Poiriers en fleur, Eragny.

Despite his abandonment of Neo-Impressionism, Pissarro remained a friend of Signac's, and the two would often spend time together when the older artist was visiting Paris. However, they spoke less about art now that their paths in that area had diverged; instead, it was politics that occupied much of their attention and that dominated their conversation. Pissarro painted Poiriers en fleur, Eragny against a backdrop of profound political unrest. He had been associated with many anarchists, and some of the most vociferous advocates of that movement were among his circle of close friends. However, during the 1890s, this became a liability. A new generation of firebrand anarchists began taking the politics out of the polling booths and into the streets with a swathe of high-profile bombings and assassinations. Even the Gare Saint-Lazare, which Pissarro frequently used in order to reach Paris from Eragny and near which he stayed when he was in Paris during this period had been bombed, an explosive device thrown into the crowd. Increasingly, there were proscriptive laws being passed by a paranoid government trying to root out these anarchists; concierges were allowed to open mail, mere denunciations were enough to lead to prison. All, in short, was uncertain, especially for a known anarchist and a foreigner such as Pissarro. Poiriers en fleur, Eragny and the other paintings that he created during this period therefore appear as the result of an escape from the pressures of the political world, an escape from the increasing tension, the fear of discovery - one of the reasons he was passing more and more time in Eragny was that his political convictions were not known there. It is telling that only shortly after Poiriers en fleur, Eragny was painted, Pissarro travelled to Belgium with his family, and stayed away from the increasingly worrying situation in France.

Pissarro's escapism during this period was not only from the tensions associated with his political affiliations, but also from a tragic slew of deaths of those amongst his acquaintance. His friend, fellow painter and patron Gustave Caillebotte had died earlier in the year at the age of 44. The collector and benefactor Georges de Bellio, a Romanian-born doctor whose generosity had supported a ream of impoverished Impressionists, had also died, as had the legendary 'Père' Tanguy, from whom so many artists of the day had bought their art supplies and who had accumulated an impressive collection of their works including his celebrated portrait by Van Gogh. Pissarro was greatly affected by these deaths, and became increasingly aware of his own mortality. For this reason, he plunged himself into his painting, creating works that were filled with an infectious zest for life, with Pissarro's phenomenal enthusiasm for the simple beauty of nature. In this context, the subject of Poiriers en fleur, Eragny, with its Spring blossoms implying renewal, becomes all the more poignant.

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