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

La récolte, Pontoise

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
La récolte, Pontoise
indistinctly signed and dated 'C. Pissarro. 80' (lower right)
oil on canvas
18¼ x 22¼ in. (46.3 x 56.5 cm.)
Painted in 1880
Lucien Pissarro (the artist's son), London, from 1921 until at least 1939.
Arthur Tooth & Sons, London.
Galerie de l'Élysée, Paris, by whom acquired from the above in April 1954.
Sylvia Blatas, Geneva.
William Pall Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in June 1986.
E. Newton, 'Rochdale Art Gallery. Paintings by Pissarro', in The Rochdale Observer, 29 October 1932.
L.-R. Pissarro & L. Venturi, Camille Pissarro, son art-son oeuvre, Paris, 1939, vol. I, p. 153, no. 517 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 106, titled 'Paysans dans les champs, Côte des Grouettes, Pontoise').
J. Pissarro & C. Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro, catalogue critique des peintures, vol. II, Paris, 2005, no. 636 (illustrated p. 425).
London, The National Gallery, Millbank, Oil Paintings by Camille Pissarro, June - October 1931, no. 18; this exhibition later travelled to Birmingham, City Museum and Art Gallery, October - November 1931, no. 15; Nottingham, Castle Museum and Art Gallery, November - December 1931, no. 10; Stockport, War Memorial Buildings, January 1932, no. 9; Sheffield, Mappin Art Gallery, February - March 1932, no. 10; Bootle, Museum, April - May 1932, no. 8; Leeds, City Art Gallery, July 1932, no. 4; Northampton, Art Gallery, September 1932, no. 20; Blackpool, Grundy Art Gallery, September 1932, no. 20 and Rochdale, Corporation Art Gallery, October - November 1932, no. 20. London, The Stafford Gallery, Constable, Bonington, Pissarro, May - June 1939, no. 7.
Basel, Kunsthalle, Impressionisten - Monet, Pissarro, Sisley: Vorläufer und Zeitgenossen, September - November 1949, no. 96.
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Giovanna Bertazzoni
Giovanna Bertazzoni

Lot Essay

Having developed an art which captures the instant, the fugitive effect, many of the Impressionist painters at the beginning of the 1880s felt the need to reassess their work, in matters of subject matter as well as technique, seeking to move beyond a purely optical approach to arrive at a more profound understanding of nature and reality. Pissarro's broadening pictorial concerns centered on the human presence within the natural world. During much of the previous decade, Pissarro had worked almost exclusively as a landscape painter; the figure featured in these compositions only as an incidental element, an enlivening component or accent, but rarely as a focus in itself. In the mid-1870s Pissarro undertook his initial forays into painting rural genre subjects during sojourns in the remote Breton hamlet of Montfoucault. Taking his cue from Renoir and Degas, for whom the figure was a paramount concern, Pissarro had come to realize that addressing this subject was a necessary challenge for any painter who wished to measure his accomplishments against the art of the past, in those ways--as he noted--"so much illustrated by first-rank artists" (quoted in J. Pissarro, Camille Pissarro, New York, 1993, p. 146). He now began to concentrate assiduously on the figure, depicting people close-up, and as central and active agents in his landscapes.

Local farm folk served as Pissarro's models; he painted them as he saw them, as they went about the hard and demanding chores that constituted their humble daily lives. Pissarro's treatment is matter-of-fact, yet always acutely observed, sympathetic and deeply felt. The art of Millet provided the most celebrated and immediate precedent, but would not, nevertheless, serve as his model. Although Pissarro admired Millet's choice of rural subjects, he felt his work was "infected with a sentimentality that one day will embarrass all true painters" (quoted in J. Rewald, Camille Pissarro: Letters to His Son Lucien, New York, 1978, p. 111). Joris-Karl Huysmans noted the freshness of Pissarro's approach in his review of the seventh Impressionist group exhibition in 1882: "Pissarro exhibits an entire series of peasant men and women, and once again shows himself to us in a new light. Pissarro has entirely detached himself from Millet's memory. He paints his country people without false grandeur, simply as he sees them" (quoted in J. Pissarro, op. cit., p. 157).

The present painting depicts local peasants engaged in the late summer harvest of a hillside patch of pea-pods. Ludovic-Rodo Pissarro included this painting in the first catalogue of his father's work (op. cit.) under the title La Côte des Grouettes, referring to a wooded hilltop which he cited as the locale of other Pontoise landscapes during this period. Joachim Pissarro and Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, however, while affirming the painting was done in Pontoise, have stated "this composition does not include any specific feature that would make it possible to identify the site it depicts" (in op. cit.).

Pissarro's handling of this motif is very much in his plein air, on-site manner, in which he quickly rendered both figure and landscape in the small, aligned brushstrokes that he had developed during the previous decade while working alongside Cézanne. In 1881 Pissarro painted a second version of this subject, based closely on the first, this time in the studio (cat. rais., no. 648). Durand-Ruel sold this later version in 1913 to Mrs. H.O. Havemeyer, the famous New York collector. Robert Lehman subsequently acquired the painting from Mrs. Havemeyer's son Horace, and in 1975 he donated it as part of his large bequest to The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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