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Paysanne gardant deux vaches

Paysanne gardant deux vaches
signed and dated 'C. Pissarro.1887' (lower left)
gouache, charcoal and pen and ink on paper
9 ¼ x 12 3/8 in. (23.6 x 31.5 cm.)
Executed in 1887
Private collection, France; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 29 March 1918, lot 36.
S. Sévadjian, Paris; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 22 March 1921, lot 35.
Mr Turnin, by whom acquired at the above sale.
Maurice Foulon, Paris.
Private collection, Paris.
Anonymous sale, Christie's, London, 2 February 2004, lot 16.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
M. Ward, Pissarro, Neo-Impressionism and the Spaces of the Avant-Garde, Chicago, 1996, p. 144 (illustrated fig. 6.12, p. 143; titled 'La Vachère' and dated '1890').
Post lot text
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 1885, Pissarro met Seurat, the driving force behind Neo-Impressionism, a novel and controversial method based upon the systematic application of paint in tiny strokes, governed by the scientific principles of colour theory. By the following year, Pissarro had embraced Neo-Impressionism, which he described as 'a new phase in the logical march of Impressionism' (quoted in J. Pissarro, Camille Pissarro, New York, 1993, p. 212). Although he never employed Neo-Impressionist techniques in a wholly doctrinaire manner, he maintained his vocal allegiance to the method until 1889.

La gardeuse de vaches evidences this artistic tendency in Pissarro's work of the late 1880s. This richly painted pastoral scene employs dynamic colour contrasts within the warm browns and oranges of the cows and the vibrant greens of the rolling grass hills and tree, each with strokes of complimentary rich blue, dazzlingly articulating the shadows and contours. The paint strokes, admittedly longer and less abbreviated than proper pointillist strictures would allow, are delicately woven with another, reinforcing the formal unity of the work. The paint is methodically laid down in alternately parallel and interlocking strokes to produce an effect of heightened luminosity.

The high level of finish achieved in La gardeuse de vaches attests to the method of layering and the meticulous application of paint, gouache being a more rapidly-drying medium than oil which had become increasingly frustrating for Pissarro to work with at this time. Christopher Lloyd, Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures at the Royal Collection Trust, wrote in a letter regarding La gardeuse de vaches that Pissarro produced fewer oils during this period. Gouache appears to have been a more appropriate and time effective method of achieving his artistic goals than oil, wherein each 'dot' would be required to dry prior to layering the next in order to pursue the finished composition. This may explain the significance of gouache as a medium for Pissarro at this time and the heightened level of quality in works such as La gardeuse de vaches which presents very much as a painting, a complete and finished work. The heightened vibrancy and immediacy of the gouache further serves to enliven the surface, fresh and abundant with colour.

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