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Le Marché aux oeufs

Le Marché aux oeufs
signed 'C. Pissarro' (lower left)
gouache on silk
9 ¼ x 15 3/8 in. (23.4 x 39 cm.)
Executed circa 1884
Paul Durand-Ruel, Paris.
Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, by whom acquired from the above, on 25 August 1891.
Alfred Baillehache-Lamotte, Paris, by whom acquired from the above on 7 November 1916.
A. Muller, Paris.
E. Foy.
Galerie Schmit, Paris.
Private collection, by whom acquired from the above in 1977; sale, Sotheby's, London, 27 November 1995, lot 2.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
L.R. Pissarro & L. Venturi, Camille Pissarro, son art, son oeuvre, vol. I, Paris, 1939, no. 1396, p. 274 (illustrated vol. II, pl. 272).
J. Rewald, Camille Pissarro, New York, 1974 (illustrated).
J.-J. Lévêque, Les Années impressionnistes, 1870-1889, Paris, 1990, p. 476 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Tableaux et gouaches par Camille Pissarro, January 1910, no. 69 (titled 'Le Marché' and dated '1886').
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Tableaux, pastels et gouaches par Camille Pissarro, January - February 1921, no. 50, p. 3.
Paris, Galerie Schmit, Cent ans de peinture française, May - June 1969, no. 98, p. 110 (illustrated; dated 'circa 1894').
Bremen, Schröder und Leisewitz, Impressionisten und Postimpressionisten, November 1982 (illustrated on the cover).
Further details
This work is accompanied by an original Attestation of Inclusion from the Wildenstein Institute, and it will be included in the forthcoming Camille Pissarro Digital Catalogue Raisonné, currently being prepared under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, Inc.

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Lot Essay

In 1884, Camille Pissarro, his wife and children moved to Éragny, to a new home that Pissarro was able to purchase with funds lent to him by Claude Monet. On Monday mornings, the artist often joined his wife Julie and a couple of their children, with some household helpers, for the two-and-a-half-mile excursion from their home to attend market day in Gisors, a town of about four thousand inhabitants further down the Epte River. While Julie stocked up on produce and provisions for the coming week, Pissarro sketched the many people from Gisors and nearby villages who gathered among the stalls set up on the Grand-Rue (today the rue de Vienne) near the town hall, as they engaged in selling, buying, or bartering, exchanging news, and socialising during this all-important, weekly communal event.

The simple human interaction in this pre-capitalist exchange of goods appealed to Pissarro's life-long dedication to the fundamental principles of non-violent anarchist theory: egalitarianism, the satisfaction derived from honest, unexploited labour, and a belief in the evolution of society toward a more peaceable and harmonious condition. From the drawn studies Pissarro elaborated a key theme in his later oeuvre — le marché, the market scene. He typically peopled these pictures with more figures in various postures than a viewer can readily count. The artist completed between 1880 and 1901 around three dozen gouaches and pastels of this kind, as well as numerous other works on paper, including prints.

The figures in Pissarro's market scenes are predominantly women, in important roles as both providers and consumers. The artist understood the powerful matriarchal impetus that still shaped agrarian society at that time, as it had in antiquity and prehistory as well. In Le marché aux oeufs, we see patterned and brightly coloured dresses and headscarves individualising each of the market-goers as they huddle together in close engagement with one another. Together, they interact, some holding animals and produce, others inspecting it, whilst they discuss, negotiate and deliberate the news of the day at this important regular moment of shared experience and community.

Particular compositional devices employed in Le marché aux oeufs provide an interesting point of note in activating Pissarro's bustling marketplace. The panoramic format lends a strong narrative quality, reading left to right with the eye guided along the brightly coloured plane by gestures and movements of the figures in a way similar to a film reel. This elongated scope, in addition to the colourful matte surface of the gouache and the large, simplified, rounded figures, bears qualities akin to the Early Renaissance frescoes of Giotto and Piera della Francesca, the gesticulation of Pissarro's figures aiding to convey the narrative. Dynamic cropping further serves to enhance the sense of movement as figures extend outside the picture frame, providing an added energy and vitality. Added to this, the short depth of field presents large figures in focus within the foreground focus whilst the multitude of smaller figures in the distance recede into a more generalised populace. Holistically, this amounts to a highly personalised point-of-view, providing an immersive, cinematic, real-life experience of the market from the vantage point of one in attendance.

Pissarro's highly-finished work is painted in gouache on silk, a medium of enhanced sensitivity which allowed the artist a greater immediacy than oil. This was his preferred medium for painting the market scenes, having painted only five canvases of rural markets and instead, creating many more works in gouache, trempe, and pastel, around 25 in all, showing the markets in Pontoise and Gisors.

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