Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)

La récolte des pommes de terre

Details
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
La récolte des pommes de terre
signed and dated 'C. Pissarro. 86' (lower left)
gouache over pencil on silk laid down on board
11 ¼ x 16 in. (28.5 x 40.6 cm.)
Painted in 1886
Provenance
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired from the artist, August 1891).
Sam Salz, Inc., New York (acquired from the above, January 1962).
Acquired from the above by the late owners, December 1962.
Literature
L.R. Pissarro and L. Venturi, Camille Pissarro, son art—son oeuvre, Paris, 1939, vol. I, p. 275, no. 1405 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 274).
R.E. Shikes and P. Harper, Pissarro, His Life and Work, New York, 1980, p. 128 (illustrated, p. 129).
M. Potter et al., The David and Peggy Rockefeller Collection: European Works of Art, New York, 1984, vol. I, p. 127, no. 31 (illustrated).
J. Pissarro, Camille Pissarro, New York, 1993, p. 217 (illustrated, p. 215, fig. 254).
M. Ward, Pissarro, Neo-Impressionism, and the Spaces of the Avant-Garde, Chicago, 1996, appendix 3, p. 271.
Exhibited
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Camille Pissarro, February 1892, p. 29, no. 66.
London, Grafton Galleries, Pictures by Boudin, Cézanne, Degas, Manet, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro, Renoir and Sisley, January-February 1905, p. 18, no. 184.
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Tableaux et gouaches par Camille Pissarro, January 1910, no. 73.
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Tableaux par Camille Pissarro, February-March 1928, no. 119.
Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie, Centenaire de la naissance de Camille Pissarro, February-March 1930, no. 25.
Trenton, The New Jersey State Museum, Focus on Light, May-September 1967, no. 74 (illustrated).
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Lot Essay

This work will be included in the forthcoming Camille Pissarro Digital Catalogue Raisonné, currently being prepared under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, Inc.

Pissarro painted La récolte des pommes de terre at a crucial juncture in his career, and at a landmark moment in the evolution of modern European painting. In October 1885, Armand Guillaumin and Paul Signac introduced Pissarro to Georges Seurat, who had just completed his immense, innovative canvas, Un dimanche à la Grande Jatte (De Hauke, vol. II, no. 162; The Art Institute of Chicago). Seeing this pioneering work in the artist’s studio, Pissarro—the doyen, charter member Impressionist, and nearly thirty years Seurat’s senior—became an early convert to the young painter’s novel method.
Within a few months, Pissarro completely retooled his approach to classic Impressionism. Instead of relying on an intuitively spontaneous technique to capture his sensations before the motif, he began to apply the scientific color theories that Ogden Rood and Eugène Chevreul had formulated, while employing the small divisionist brush stroke of pure color to create the effect of optically mixed tones on the canvas. Pissarro actually beat Seurat to the first public display of a divisionist picture—Seurat recalled in a letter dated 20 June 1890 to the gallerist and critic Félix Fénéon, “1886 January or February, a small canvas by Pissarro, divided and pure color. At Clozet’s the dealer” (quoted in Georges Seurat, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1991, p. 383).
Seurat’s masterwork was shown for the first time publicly at the eighth and final Impressionist group exhibition in May-June 1886. Advocating for “progress” and “independence,” Pissarro, one of the principal organizers, championed the inclusion of this radical painting—to the dismay of his long-time colleagues. Largely for this reason, the other founding Impressionists—apart from Edgar Degas, Berthe Morisot and Armand Guillaumin—spurned the event, which turned out to be the group’s last exhibition. Seurat and his partisans overnight became the new avant-garde, which Fénéon subsequently dubbed néo-impressionniste.
Such was Pissarro’s eagerness to experiment with divisionism, that when preparing to paint the present gouache, he elected not to work up an entirely new composition of harvest workers in a field, but turned instead to a small canvas study he had painted in Pontoise in 1874 as his model, which also provided its title to this new work (Pissarro and Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, no. 360). Pissarro was flexible in his use of divisionism, or pointillisme, which correctly refers not to a small dot, but to a “stitch” of paint. Since 1880 the artist had been using a variety of increasingly small, punctuation-like brushstrokes in his painting, from which his transition into Neo-Impressionism seemed an inevitable step, newly informed with the science of tested and proven color theory. Each square inch of La récolte des pommes de terre comprises a wealth of layered hues, glinting as if in sunlight, evoking a luminous world woven in myriad filaments of paint.

"In 1962 we bought from him [Sam Salz] this gouache by Pissarro of 'The Potato Harvest,' which I gave to Peggy as a Christmas present. It still hangs in our bedroom next to her side of the bed at 65th Street." —David Rockefeller

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