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

Les travailleurs aux champs

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
Les travailleurs aux champs
signed 'C Pissarro.' (lower left)
gouache on silk laid down on board
10 x 7¾ in. (25.4 x 19.7 cm.)
Painted circa 1896-1897
Emile Strauss, Paris; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 3-4 June 1929, lot 21.
Anon. sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 10 June 1937, lot 7.
Anon. sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 12 May 1939, lot 33.
P. Ebstein, Paris.
Acquired by the family of the present owner, circa 1950.
L. R. Pissarro and L. Venturi, Camille Pissarro, son art--son oeuvre, Paris, 1939, vol. I, p. 286, no. 1486 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 287).

Lot Essay

This work will be included in the forthcoming Camille Pissarro catalogue critique being prepared by Dr. Joachim Pissarro and Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Institute.

Whether depicted singly, in pairs or in larger groups, Pissarro's peasants engage in a communal and cooperative effort as they harvest the fruits of their labor. "These reaping scenes underscore two themes which find resounding evocation in the last two decades of Pissarro's work: plentitude and abundance and a certain satisfaction, both themes being intimately connected semantically with Pissarro's personal work ethic" (J. Pissarro, Camille Pissarro, New York, 1993, p. 183).

Pissarro's harvest scenes are certainly the most felicitous and life-affirming of all the artist's many subjects. Decades of painting at Pontoise, and, after 1882, at Eragny-sur-Epte in Normandy, imbued Pissarro's images of rural life with a sense of quotidian familiarity. These images capture the lyricism of a seasonal harvest without idealizing the subject. Painted in 1896, the present work displays the long, dynamic brushstrokes that characterize Pissarro's late style, yet the two figures toiling in the fields are silent and introspective figures.

More than any of the other Impressionists, and certainly more than any artist since Gustave Courbet and Jean François Millet, Pissarro understood the hard life of the peasant, and he celebrated its virtues without romanticizing its difficulties. Indeed, Pissarro envisioned his vocation as an artist as analogous to the unrelenting routine of the peasant. His approach to creativity was not that of the isolated and brooding genius; instead, he saw himself as a member of a community of like-minded individuals working towards a common goal. Pissarro assumed the role of teacher for younger artists as well as for his own sons--for a man of this positive outlook and exemplary work ethic, the harvest was a cogent symbol of his own life's work.

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