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

Fiacres sur le Boulevard Montmartre

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
Fiacres sur le Boulevard Montmartre
stamped with initials 'C.P.' (Lugt 613e; lower left)
brush and sepia wash and pen and black ink on paper
7 1/8 x 9 in. (18.2 x 23 cm.)
Executed circa 1897
Estate of the artist.
Private collection, France.
Acquired by Achim Moeller Fine Art on behalf of John C. Whitehead, 1997.
Achim Moeller Fine Art, ed., From Daumier to Matisse, Selections from the John C. Whitehead Collection, exh. cat., Achim Moeller Fine Art, New York, 2002, p. 26 (illustrated in color).
New York, The Jewish Museum, Camille Pissarro, Impressions of City & Country, September 2007-February 2008, p. 70 (illustrated in color, pl. 43; illustrated again in color, pp. ii-iii).
New York, Achim Moeller Fine Art, From Daumier to Matisse, French Master Drawings from the John C. Whitehead Collection, April-May 2010, pp. 13 and 28, no. 7 (illustrated in color, p. 29).

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Morgan Schoonhoven
Morgan Schoonhoven

Lot Essay

Dr. Joachim Pissarro will include this work in his forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné of Drawings by Camille Pissarro.

Fiacres sur le Boulevard Montmartre comes from one of the most important series of Pissarro’s urban views. It was in the last eight years of his life that Pissarro took on the monumental task of shifting his primary subject matter from the rural landscapes of the countryside, to the bustling streets of urban life. Pissarro’s series paintings have been likened to Claude Monet’s series paintings of The Rouen Cathedral, grainstacks and poplars, but by contrast each of Pissarro’s paintings were seen by the artist as individual works standing on their own.
In February 1897, Pissarro travelled to Paris and checked in to the Grand Hotel Russie at the corner of Rue Drouot and the Boulevard des Italiens. His room provided him with expansive views of the city, allowing him to take in all of the glory of George-Eugène Haussmann’s grand boulevards of the newly reconfigured Paris. He would write to his son Georges, “I have begun my series of Boulevards. I have a splendid motif which I am going to explore under all possible effects” (quoted in The Impressionist and the City, Pissarro’s Series Paintings, exh. cat., Dallas Museum of Art, 1992, p. 59). Pissarro would paint fourteen canvases from this vantage point, exploring the effects of daylight, nightfall, atmospheric conditions and celebrations on the street below. Speaking of the Parisian street views, he wrote to his son Lucien, “It is very beautiful to paint! Perhaps it is not aesthetic, but I am delighted to be able to paint these Paris streets that people have come to call ugly, but which are so silvery, so luminous and vital…this is completely modern!” (quoted in op. cit., exh. cat, 2007, pp. 11-12).
The present lot is a compelling contrast to the series paintings, and a rare one in its execution; Pissarro created very few works on paper depicting the urban scenes of Paris. Executed in ink and sepia wash, the work is devoid of the color exploration seen in the paintings, yet it manages to capture the weather effects in impressive detail. This monochromatic treatment of the subject invites the viewer to focus on the compositional aspects of the newly modernized streets below, highlighting their architectural beauty that Pissarro so admired. Durand-Ruel was so impressed with the painted series that he bought twelve of the fourteen canvases that Pissarro submitted to him in May of that year, marking a financial success for the artist.
The present work is quite rare as it is one of the only known works on paper of the subject matter by the artist. In a letter to Achim Moeller dated 31 March 1997, Joachim Pissarro wrote that “its dignity as an object, its resolution, its completeness as a work of art leaves, however, nothing to envy from an oil on canvas.” The present work remained in the artist’s possession until his death, perhaps retained as a memento of this accomplished series.

(fig 1. Camille Pissarro. The Boulevard Montmartre on a Winter Morning; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

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