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

Bords de l'Epte à Êragny, soleil couchant

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
Bords de l'Epte à Êragny, soleil couchant
signed and dated 'C. Pissarro. 1897' (lower right)
oil on canvas
23 3/4 x 28 7/8 in. (60.2 x 73.2 cm.)
Painted in Êragny in 1897
Juan Cabruja, Paris; his sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 20 May 1921, lot 38.
A. Mille, Paris, circa 1930.
Galerie de l'Art Moderne, Paris.
Arthur Tooth & Sons, London (no. 4370), by whom acquired from the above, on 12 March 1956.
Acquired from the above by the grandfather of the present owner, on 20 March 1956, and thence by descent.
'Art et curiosité', in Le Journal, no. 10443, Paris, 21 May 1921, p. 3 (titled 'la Saulaie').
L.R. Pissarro & L. Venturi, Camille Pissarro, son art, son oeuvre, vol. I, Paris, 1939, no. 1003, p. 220 (illustrated vol. II, pl. 201).
J. Pissarro & C. Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro: Catalogue critique des peintures, vol. III, Paris, 2005, no. 1193, p. 747 (illustrated).
Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie, Centenaire de la naissance de Camille Pissarro, February - March 1930, no. 92.
London, Arthur Tooth & Sons, Paris-Londres: A Collection of Pictures, Many Recently Acquired in France, April 1956, no. 18.

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Keith Gill
Keith Gill

Lot Essay

Painted in 1897, Bords de l’Epte à l’Éragny originates from the heyday of Camille Pissarro’s prolific career. Having moved to Éragny in 1884, the artist spent the last two decades of his life studying the impact of natural light and the changing of the seasons on the rural landscape. Striking a new note in his oeuvre, more than 400 paintings as well as numerous watercolours and drawings produced during those years offer a remarkable diversity of motifs inspired by a limited geographical area. Further exploring his political beliefs through his artistic production, the peaceful manner in which Pissarro depicts the pastoral landscapes of Northern France is also reflective of the utopian society he believed humanity should be striving for. The village of Éragny and its surrounding areas—the local terrain including fertile farmland and exuberant verdure—are therefore to be considered synonymous with the period during which Pissarro’s artistic as well as philosophical aspirations culminated. Testament to the significance of the present work in this context, is the fact it was included in the landmark 1930 exhibition celebrating the centenary of Pisarro’s birth at the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris.

Bords de l’Epte à l’Éragny was painted on the banks of the river Epte, in the meadows between the villages of Éragny and Bazincourt. Pissarro seems to have returned to this specific site on several occasions throughout the 1880s and 1890s. Les saules en hiver, Éragny, painted earlier in the decade and now in the collection of Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Santiago, features the same willow trees—albeit presented from a different vantage point. In contrast with his earlier works featuring the same site on the banks of the Epte, in Bords de l’Epte à l’Éragny the artist has completely omitted human figures from the scene, focusing his attention solely on the natural, undisturbed landscape.

The rich and atmospheric colours of this composition are applied with vigorous brushstrokes, creating emphatic contrasts between warm, earthy hues of brown, green, and yellow. The complex patterns in the greenery as well as the earth gradually lead the viewer further into the composition, calling attention to the thick, luscious foliage on the bottom right hand corner of the painting. The loose brushstrokes in which white paint has been applied to the surface of the Epte accentuate the gentle ripples expanding across the river water. Aerial qualities of the present work are emphasised by the glimmering reflection of the blue skies and cumulous clouds set against the branches of the trees in the flowing water. The treatment of reflections remains approximate, creating an effect of luminous sunlight and gentle ebb and flow of the current. Painted en plein air, Bords de l’Epte à l’Éragny therefore is revelatory of Pissarro’s distinctive technique, which above all gave emphasis to colour and shape.

The present work exudes an air of rural tranquillity disturbed only by what one could imagine to be a gentle breeze in the air. Fragments of light blue sky, visible through the branches of the willows, further emphasise the atmosphere of an idyllic early autumn day in the countryside. The leaves on the trees are beginning to turn into shades of orange and yellow, a subtle indication of the changing of the seasons. After Pissarro’s return to Éragny in August 1897, he produced a number of works featuring the local landscape—perhaps including the present work—which were subsequently sent to the renowned Parisian Impressionist dealer Paul Durand-Ruel on 22 September. Writing to his sons Georges and Lucien in late October, the artist mused on how the ephemeral light of autumn sunshine had invigorated his spirits, further demonstrating his continuous fascination with the effect different times of the day as well as seasons had on natural landscapes.

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