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stamped with initials 'C.P.' (Lugt 613a; lower left)
oil on canvas
16 ¼ x 13 1⁄8 in. (41.2 x 33.3 cm.)
Painted circa 1895
Julie Pissarro, Paris (wife of the artist); Estate sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 3 December 1928, lot 49.
Private collection, Japan (by circa 1985).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
G. Lecomte, Camille Pissarro, Paris, 1922, p. 82 (illustrated in color; dated 1896).
L.R. Pissarro and L. Venturi, Camille Pissarro: Son art—son oeuvre, Paris, 1939, vol. I, p. 211, no. 939 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 190; dated circa 1896).
J. Pissarro and C. Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro: Catalogue critique des peintures, Paris, 2005, vol. III, p. 696, no. 1101 (illustrated in color).
London, Stafford Gallery, Pictures by Camille Pissarro, October 1911, p. 11, no. 21.
London, Thomas Agnew & Sons, Paintings and Drawings by Camille Pissarro, November 1937, no. 19.
Paris, Galerie André Weil, Pissarro, June 1950, no. 30.

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Lot Essay

In 1884, Camille Pissarro and his family moved from Pontoise to Eragny, settling in a house surrounded by a large garden through which the river Epte flowed. Here, he created a group of works that focused not solely on the landscape, but incorporated figures engaged in a range of quotidian activities: working in the garden or fields, picking fruit, tending to animals, or resting. In 1894-1896, Pissarro went even further and painted a dozen canvases depicting female nudes seen both singly and in groups. These represent his only sustained exploration of the nude form in his entire career. The scarcity of nudes in Pissarro's oeuvre stems largely from his difficulty in finding models in the small, rural towns where he spent much of his career. The present painting, which depicts three young female bathers by a woodland stream, inscribes itself within this rare body of work.
Speaking of Pissarro’s bathers, the Art critic François Thibault-Sisson wrote, "I know of no contemporary artist capable of rendering the nude en plein air so masterfully and of swathing it in such subtly luminous caresses as M. Pissarro" (quoted in op. cit., 2005, p. 699). In Baigneuses, the three figures’ fleshy nude bodies are softly illuminated by natural light, which infuses the scene with a sense of harmony and ease. The women seem quietly lost in thought amidst this peaceful and secluded corner of nature. The gently depicted trees and grass seem to shelter them from reality, into a warm, sun-dappled, earthly paradise. This idealized, non-specific imagery strengthens the work’s imaginative component for us viewers, allowing us to devise our own reasons and meanings for the scene.
Baigneuses also inscribes itself within a period of change in Pissarro’s painting, which began in the early 1890s. Seeking to depart from the Divisionist method which he had adopted in the 1880s, he had been tirelessly experimenting in order to devise a distinct manner of painting which would enable him to incorporate certain Divisionist principles with a more pragmatic form of modelling. Baigneuses presents a combination of techniques, where the legacy of the 1880s is augmented by a freer, more vigorous handling reminiscent of the 'loaded' paint surfaces of the 1860s. Speaking of Pissarro’s work in Eragny, Richard Thomson has said: “The heavy paint surface and close values recall his paintings of the 1860s, although the textures are more varied and the color range is more resonant" (Camille Pissarro, London, 1990, pp. 81-82 and 84).

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