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Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Sold by the Art Institute of Chicago
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)

Juin, temps pluvieux, Eragny

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
Juin, temps pluvieux, Eragny
signed and dated 'C. Pissarro 98' (lower right)
oil on canvas
26¼ x 32½ in. (66.7 x 82.7 cm.)
Painted in 1898
R. and C. Gérard Frères, Paris (circa 1930); sale, Crédit municipal, Paris, 20 March 1933.
Otto Zieseniss, Paris (by 1934).
Louise Zieseniss, Paris (by descent from the above, 1938).
Private collection, Paris (by descent from the above, until 1962).
Wildenstein & Co., Ltd., London (acquired from the above).
Clive Runnells, Chicago (acquired from the above).
Bequest from the above to the Art Institute of Chicago, 1963.
F. Neugass, "Camille Pissarro" in Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, December 1930, p. 161 (illustrated).
L.R. Pissarro and L. Venturi, Camille Pissarro, son art-son oeuvre, Paris, 1939, vol. I, p. 228, no. 1055 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 212). C. Kunstler, Pissarro, villes et campagnes, Lausanne, 1967, p. 49 (illustrated in color, pl. 23).
C. Lloyd, "Camille Pissarro: Towards a Reassessment" in Art International, 1985, p. 65 (illustrated).
R. Brettell, French Impressionists, New York, 1987, pp. 112 and 118 (illustrated in color, p. 115).
J. Pissarro and C. Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro, Catalogue critique des peintures, Paris, 2005, vol. III, p. 759, no. 1214 (illustrated in color).
Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie, Centenaire de la naissance de Camille Pissarro, February-March 1930, no. 95.
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Olympia's Progeny, October-November 1965, no. 71.
Albi, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Trésors impressionnistes du Musée de Chicago, June-August 1980, no. 26.
Tokyo, Isetan Museum of Art; Fukuoka Art Museum and Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, Rétrospective Camille Pissarro, March-July 1984, no. 59.
Tokyo, The Seibu Museum of Art and Fukuoka Art Museum, The Impressionist Tradition: Masterpieces from the Art Institute of Chicago, October 1985-April 1986, no. 58.
Nagaoka, Niigata Prefectural Museum and Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Masterpieces of Modern Art from the Art Institute of Chicago, June-September 1994, no. 18.
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

Lot Essay

The present painting depicts the meadow in front of Pissarro's house at Eragny, a tiny village on the banks of the Epte where the artist lived from 1884 until his death in 1903. During these two decades, Pissarro made approximately two hundred oils, plus scores of watercolors and drawings, that depict the gardens, orchards, and fields within a single square mile surrounding his home. Along with the paintings that Pissarro produced at Pontoise between 1872 and 1882, the views of Eragny constitute his largest and most significant body of work within the landscape genre. He painted the countryside in all seasons and at all times of day, frequently describing the weather and light conditions in minute detail in letters to his son Lucien. When the climate made it impossible for him to work outdoors, he persisted in his pictorial explorations, painting the view from the window of his house instead. He returned to the same spots in the landscape at intervals of days, weeks, or even years, varying his viewpoint to produce the impression of remarkable richness and diversity within an extremely limited stretch of terrain. Joachim Pissarro has written:

"Unlike Pontoise, whose tensions were those of a suburban town, semi-rural and semi-urban, in Eragny, no signs of industry could be observed for miles. Varied expanses of pasture and cultivated land complete the visual field. However, Eragny's earthly space is not banal. For twenty years Pissarro concentrated on this very confined area, on the visual material offered by the stretch of meadows lying in front of him, informed by poplars, gates, the river, and produced over two hundred paintings of these motifs. His representations of these fields and gardens constitute the most spectacularly intense pictorial effort to 'cover' a particular given space in his career... Pissarro could never get enough of Eragny. His infrequent travels always brought him back to Eragny with renewed resources, fresh ideas, and an eagerness to paint the same and yet ever different locations once again. The years that he spent in Eragny undeniably constitute a significant episode in the history of late Impressionism" (Camille Pissarro, New York, 1993, pp. 225 and 241).

The hamlet of Eragny is located about forty-five miles northwest of Paris in the Vexin region, close to the border of Normandy. When Pissarro and his family moved there in 1884, it had a population of fewer than five hundred people. The closest market town was Gisors, about two miles away; the village of Bazincourt, which stands on the opposite bank of the Epte, could be reached by foot in fifteen minutes or less, on a road that crossed the river on a small bridge. Pissarro was immediately smitten with the region: "Yes, we've made up our minds on Eragny-sur-Epte. The house is superb and inexpensive; a thousand francs, with garden and meadow. It is two hours from Paris. I found the region much more beautiful than Compigne. Gisors is superb; we'd seen nothing" (quoted in J. Pissarro and C. Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, op. cit., p. 499). Within days of settling into rented accommodations at Eragny, Pissarro was hard at work. In April 1884, he wrote to his dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, "I haven't been able to restrain myself from painting, so beautiful are the motifs that surround my garden" (quoted in Camille Pissarro, exh. cat., Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2005, p. 161). Pissarro purchased the property in 1893 with the help of a loan from Monet; his improving financial situation enabled him to repay his friend over the course of the next three years.

The meadow in front of Pissarro's house was one of the artist's favorite places to paint at Eragny. The present canvas shows the meadow on a rainy day in early summer, looking west across the valley toward the red-roofed houses of Bazincourt. The landscape is lush and green, the trees are in full leaf, and the small apple tree in the center of the composition is about to drop its last blossoms. This tree, with its distinctive twisted trunk, was one of the most prominent landmarks in the meadow and features in more than two dozen of Pissarro's paintings. Pissarro depicted the meadow in front of his house at all different times of day, from the pale light of morning to the richly colored hues of afternoon and sunset. He explored the pictorial possibilities that it offered throughout the seasons: with the fresh blooms of spring, the verdant leaves of summer, the colored foliage of autumn, and the bare boughs of winter (figs. 1-3). He painted the meadow's apple trees in fog and in flood, their branches tinged with hoar-frost or burdened by snow. Richard Brettell has written about the present view, "Pissarro sought to entrap in paint the most fleeting of nature's moods, and the depiction of rain was among the most elusive goals of the Impressionists. Here, Pissarro, at the age of sixty-eight, succeeded. This rural landscape was observed from the painter's studio on a rainy day and is, for that reason, unpeopled. As viewers, we stand next to the painter, looking over the landscape. The painting thus communicates a subtle distance between the viewer and the world in the painting, and it is difficult for us to imagine that we could simply walk in to the picture. Instead, rain falls gently over a lush, Norman landscape that we can appreciate from the comfort of our room in our time" (op. cit., p. 112).

A landscape that Pissarro painted in 1886 from the window of his house indicates the exact location of the meadow depicted in the present canvas (Pissarro and Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, no. 825; fig. 4). In the foreground of the 1886 painting is the artist's garden, delimited on the left by a hennery and on the right by a low white wall. The garden is bisected by a second, higher wall, which Pissarro dismantled in 1893, immediately after purchasing the house and its grounds. On the left edge of the canvas is a barn, which he converted to a studio in the same year. Beyond the garden lies the meadow, which also formed part of Pissarro's acreage. The apple tree with the twisted trunk stands immediately behind the hen-house, only its upper branches visible here; at the far right of the canvas is another pommier with a distinctive bowed silhouette, this one bent in the opposite direction from the tree in the present scene. In the background of the 1886 painting, beyond the artist's property, are yet more meadows, with willows and poplars marking the meandering course of the Epte. In the far distance is visible the steeple of the church at Bazincourt, which is masked in the present view by the profusion of foliage.

The present canvas was painted in 1898, a productive and successful year for Pissarro. By this time, it had become his habit to live and work for extended periods in Paris and the industrial port of Rouen from the fall through the spring, while spending the interim and summer months at home in Eragny. These changes in locale enabled him to vary his motifs, mixing new series of urban scenes with his more familiar rural landscapes. From December 1897 through April 1898, he lodged at the Grand Hôtel du Louvre in Paris and painted a group of fifteen views of the place du Théâtre-Français, the avenue de l'Opéra, and the rue Saint-Honoré (Pissarro and Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, nos. 1195-1209). He returned home to Eragny on April 28th, writing to Lucien upon his arrival there, "I'm so happy to be able to breathe a bit of the air here and see some greenery and flowers. I've also set to work so that I don't lose the habit" (quoted in J. Pissarro and C. Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, op. cit., p. 282). During the month of May, he completed two paintings of the apple trees in his meadow in full bloom (Pissarro and Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, nos. 1210-1211). In a letter to Lucien, Pissarro described one of these as "a flowering Spring... which I think is the best thing I've ever done" (quoted in ibid., p. 283). This painting was acquired immediately by Durand-Ruel and included in an exhibition of recent works by Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, Monet, and Puvis de Chavannes that opened in his gallery on June 1st. Pissarro traveled to Paris on May 27th, in time for the opening of the exhibition, and remained there for a fortnight. When he returned to Eragny on June 7th, he lost no time in picking up the motif of the meadow, producing the present canvas; in late June, he left Eragny once again, spending a three-week sojourn in Burgundy and then settling at Rouen until late October.

Pissarro was adamant that there was no dichotomy between the paintings that he made at Eragny and those that he produced in Paris, Rouen, Dieppe, and Le Havre during the last decade of his career. In a letter that he wrote to his son Rodo from Le Havre in 1903, the artist explained, "You know that motifs are completely secondary to me. I am more interested in the atmosphere and its effects" (quoted in J. Bailly-Herzberg, ed., Correspondance de Camille Pissarro, St.-Ouen-l'Aumone, 1991, p. 352). Despite this consistent pictorial goal, the crowded harbors and bustling streets of Pissarro's cityscapes form a marked contrast to the tranquil, bucolic scenes that he painted back home at Eragny. The gulf between city and country was widely discussed by anarchist thinkers such as Peter Kropotkin during the late nineteenth century, particularly with respect to the growing tide of agrarian mechanization. Pissarro was sympathetic to the ideas of Kropotkin and his circle, and the dual subject matter that he explored toward the end of his career may well reflect an interest in the changing patterns of modern life. Kathleen Adler has concluded, "Pissarro's work of the 1890s reveals an awareness of the divide between city and country. If one extends his concept of unity, of a sense of balance and harmony, from individual works to his oeuvre as a whole, the city paintings may be seen as complementary to his many renderings of rural life" (in C. Lloyd, ed., Studies on Camille Pissarro, London, 1986, p. 107).

(fig. 1) Camille Pissarro, Pommier en fleur, Eragny, 1895. Private collection.
Barcode: 28975021

(fig. 2) Camille Pissarro, Pommiers dans le pré à Eragny, 1894. Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, Norman, Oklahoma.
Barcode: 28975038

(fig. 3) Camille Pissarro, Le pommier, gelée blanche à Eragny, 1895. Private collection.
Barcode: 28975045

(fig. 4) Camille Pissarro, Vue de ma fenêtre, Eragny, 1886. Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford.
Barcode: 28975052

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