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The Phillips Family Collection

La barrière du chemin de fer, aux Pâtis près Pontoise

La barrière du chemin de fer, aux Pâtis près Pontoise
signed and dated twice 'C. Pissarro. 1873 C. Pissarro. 1874' (lower left)
oil on canvas
25 ½ x 32 in. (65 x 81.4 cm.)
Painted in 1873-1874
L. Panis, Paris (acquired from the artist, August 1874).
Etienne Baudley, Paris (possibly acquired from the above); sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 13 April 1892, lot 41.
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired at the above sale).
Bruno & Paul Cassirer, Berlin (acquired from the above, 12 February 1901).
Dr. Karel Břetislav Palkovský, Prague (by 1939).
Olda Palkovská Kokoschka, Vevey (daughter of the above; circa 1950); sale, Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett, Stuttgart, 4 May 1962, lot 378.
Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., London (acquired at the above sale).
Mark Horowitz, London (acquired from the above, 1962); sale, Sotheby's, London, 29 April 1964, lot 41.
Wildenstein & Co. Inc., New York (acquired at the above sale).
Acquired from the above by the Phillips family, 3 December 1968.
Letter from L. Panis to M. Baudry, 8 June 1874.
Letter from P. Cezanne to C. Pissarro, 24 June 1874.
A. Fontainas and L. Vauxcelles, "Camille Pissarro, Sisley, Guillaumin, Lepine, Caillebotte, Vignon, Lebourg" in Histoire générale de l'art français de la révolution à nos jours, 1922, p. 161 (illustrated).
A. Tabarant, "Le cinquantenaire de l'Impressionnisme" in La renaissance de l'art français et des industries de luxe, vol. 7, no. 5, May 1924, p. 245 (illustrated).
J.-C. Holl, "Pissarro" in L'art et les artistes, vol. 22, no. 84, February 1928, p. 148 (illustrated).
J. Rewald, Paul Cezanne: Correspondance, Paris, 1937, p. 120, letter no. XXXI.
L.R. Pissarro and L. Venturi, Camille Pissarro: Son art-son oeuvre, Paris, 1939, vol. I, p. 117, no. 266 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 53).
G. Jedlicka, Pissarro, Bern, 1950 (illustrated, pl. 15).
T. Natanson, Pissarro, Lausanne, 1950 (illustrated, pl. 15).
C. Kunstler, Pissarro: Villes et campagnes, Lausanne, 1967, p. 27, no. 12 (illustrated in color).
J. Rewald, C. Pissarro, Paris, 1974, p. 57 (illustrated).
C. Lloyd, Camille Pissarro, Geneva, 1981, p. 51 (illustrated, p. 50).
C. Lloyd, ed., Studies on Camille Pissarro, London, 1986, pp. 20, 70 and 73, note 35.
R.R. Brettell, Pissarro and Pontoise: The Painter in a Landscape, New Haven, 1990, pp. 65, 67, 163-164 and 213, note 32 (illustrated in color, p. 70, fig. 65).
J. Pissarro, Camille Pissarro, New York, 1993, pp. 88 and 121 (illustrated in color, p. 89, fig. 90).
J. Pissarro and C. Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro: Catalogue critique des peintures, Paris, 2005, vol. II, pp. 241-242, no. 306 (illustrated in color, p. 241).
Berlin, Paul Cassirer, Pontoise, Eragny bei Pontoise, March 1900.
Berlin, Paul Cassirer, VI. Ausstellung, February-March 1907, no. 77.
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., French Masters, June-July 1962, pp. 17-18, no. 16 (illustrated, p. 17).
New York, Wildenstein & Co. Inc., One Hundred Years of Impressionism: A Tribute to Durand-Ruel, April-May 1970, no. 20 (illustrated).
London, Hayward Gallery; Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais and Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Pissarro, October 1980-August 1981, pp. 100-101, no. 35 (illustrated, p. 100).
Tokyo, Isetan Museum of Art; Fukuoka Art Museum and Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, Retrospective Camille Pissarro, March-July 1984, pp. 130-131, no. 20 (illustrated in color).
Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Art Institute of Chicago and Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, A Day in the Country: Impressionism and the French Landscape, June 1984-April 1985, p. 164, no. 53 (illustrated in color, p. 163).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Paris, Musée d'Orsay, Cezanne and Pissarro, 1865-1885, June 2005-May 2006, pp. 86 and 181-182, no. 82 (illustrated in color, p. 182).
Further details
After the pre-sale exhibition, this lot will be transferred to storage in Delaware and will be available for shipment from Delaware. Please note that title to the lot will transfer to the buyer in accordance with the Conditions of Sale while the lot is in storage in Delaware. Contact Christie’s Client Service team at +1 212 636 2000 for further details.

Brought to you by

Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-Head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

A rare, early Impressionist landscape, Camille Pissarro’s La barrière du chemin de fer, aux Pâtis près Pontoise was completed in 1874—a pivotal year for the artist, personally and professionally. This gesturally-rendered scene, depicting a rural railway crossing in the brilliant light of day, earned the praise of Paul Cezanne when he first encountered it. The painting was featured in the 2005-2006 exhibition devoted to their friendship and creative collaboration, Pioneering Modern Painting: Cezanne and Pissarro, 1865-1885.
La barrière du chemin de fer, aux Pâtis près Pontoise depicts an encounter between a man and woman walking in opposite directions along a dirt road. Their path is bordered by a patch of bright grass on one side and a humble stone wall and a red-roofed house on the other. The figures are further corralled by a wooden fence demarcating the edge of railroad tracks of the Paris-Dieppe line, which connected the northwestern region of France to the capital city. In a lithographic print based on this composition, Pissarro heightened the tension between the modestly dressed figures, narrowing the space between them and eliminating much of the landscape. In the present painting, by contrast, the man and woman maintain a polite distance and are largely dwarfed by their rural surroundings: rolling hills, tidy fields and a scatter of trees, verdant in the midday sun.
This railway crossing was located in Les Pâtis, a small village west of Pontoise, where Pissarro lived with his family intermittently between 1866 and 1883. Though connected by a short train ride to Paris, this suburb was largely immune from the noise, pollution and vice of the capital city—the subjects that preoccupied many of Pissarro’s Impressionist colleagues during this period. Pissarro was instead drawn to the quietude of this hamlet, which still hummed to the slow, quiet rhythm of agricultural life. The artist painted several landscapes in Pâtis in the early 1870s, experimenting with loose, evocative brushwork and the pure, bright blues and greens that characterized his early Impressionist style.
The first owner of the present painting, L. Panis, was a Parisian collector who developed a specific taste for Pissarro’s work. The Panis sale was facilitated by Etienne Baudry, cousin to the art critic Théodore Duret, who was also a friend and champion of Pissarro. Baudry and Duret both acted as conduits for the sale of several of the artist’s canvases. Panis wrote to Baudry concerning La barrière du chemin de fer, aux Pâtis près Pontoise in June 1874: “If I had a choice of paintings of M. Pissarro, I would choose the Railway Crossing. I do not know if my offer of 15 Louis is reasonable, but frankly I can do no better. If Monsieur Pissarro is willing to let me have his painting for that price, I’ll recommend him very warmly to my friends, but be sure to tell him that I’m not interested in speculating on him” (Letter from L. Panis to M. Baudry, 8 June 1874; quoted in op. cit., 2005, p. 241).
Panis’s modest offer was amenable to the artist. Pissarro was eager for connections to new patrons, for he had long struggled to support his growing family with his painting practice. The Pissarros had been forced to move several times and the children suffered from sporadic illnesses, leaving the artist in severe financial debt. In the spring of 1874, in a bid to attract sympathetic buyers, Pissarro participated in the first exhibition of the Société anonyme coopérative des artistes peintres, sculpteurs et graveurs—later known as the First Impressionist Exhibition. Pissarro’s work was well received by critics, but the exhibition yielded little profit. A few months later, a desperate Pissarro wrote to Duret, “If you could unearth for me the rare man who likes modern painting and does not fear ridicule, I would be very grateful if you would point him in my direction” (quoted in J. Pissarro and C. Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, op. cit., 2005, vol. I, p. 144). The Panis sale in June 1874 had been a crucial one, made at a precarious moment in Pissarro’s personal and professional life.
This present work also became a touchstone in the relationship between the artist and his friend Paul Cezanne, whom he met as an art student at the Académie Suisse in Paris in 1861. In the early 1870s, Cezanne and Pissarro spent time together in Pontoise and the surrounding region, painting side by side. Soon after Cezanne left for his native region of Provence, he wrote to Pissarro and encouraged him to join him there: “Now that I see this country again, I believe it would satisfy you completely, for it's amazingly reminiscent of your study of the railway crossing in full sunlight in the middle of summer” (Letter from P. Cezanne to C. Pissarro, 24 June 1874; quoted in A. Danchev, ed., The Letters of Paul Cezanne, London, 2013, p. 151). Cezanne recalled the naturalistic atmospheric effects of La barrière du chemin de fer, aux Pâtis près Pontoise and believed that Pissarro would find further inspiration in the warm light of Provence—though he was ultimately unsuccessful in his lobbying efforts.
Formerly in the personal collection of Olda Palkovská Kokoschka, wife of the Viennese artist Oskar Kokoschka, La barrière du chemin de fer, aux Pâtis près Pontoise has belonged to the Phillips family for nearly six decades. It was lent to several major monographic exhibitions devoted to Pissarro, including the large-scale retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 1980 and 1981. Most recently, the painting was prominently featured in Pioneering Modern Painting: Cezanne and Pissarro, 1865-1885, which traveled from The Museum of Modern Art in New York to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris from 2005 to 2006. The exhibition explored the mutual encouragement and formal influence that these two artists exchanged over the course of their twenty-five-year-long friendship; this painting specifically demonstrated the intimacy of their correspondence in the 1870s.

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