3 More

Paysannes portant un panier

Paysannes portant un panier
signed and dated 'C.Pissarro.88.' (lower left)
gouache on linen laid down on board
14 1⁄8 x 11 1⁄4 in. (36 x 28.5 cm.)
Executed in 1888
Herman Kapferer, Paris.
Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, by whom acquired from the above on 6 July 1888.
Alexander J. Cassatt, Philadephia, by whom acquired from the above, on 6 July 1888, and thence by descent; sale, Parke-Bernet, New York, 15 April 1959, lot 56.
Joseph Gruss, New York, and thence by descent; sale, Christie's, New York, 2 November 1993, lot 2.
Private collection, by whom acquired at the above sale.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in September 1997.
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.

Brought to you by

Micol Flocchini
Micol Flocchini Head of Day Sale

Lot Essay

Executed in 1888, Paysannes portant un panier intimately captures the peasant's experience. Produced at the height of Camille Pissarro’s most creative and politically charged period, the work, which represents and gives central stage to two rural female workers in a field, exemplifies a novel phase of the artist’s prolific career which begun in the 1880s. This mode of rural portraiture preoccupied the artist for over two decades, and it was during this period that many of his finest works were produced. More than a landscape, the serene scene here depicted in flecks of pigments offers the artist’s view on the social fabric of nineteenth-century France. Aesthetically crucial, a great number of these paintings have since found their way into the collections of established museums across the world.

According to Professor Richard Brettell, Pissarro's work from the 1880s "suggest[s] a fundamental questioning of the kind of painting normally associated with Impressionism, the plein-air sketch, and a more complicated, highly mediated relationship with 'reality' than a simply optical one. For Pissarro in this period, the simple equation between seeing and representing advocated by [the Impressionists] was both undesirable and impossible" (in Pissarro and Pontoise: The Painter in a Landscape, New Haven, 1990, p. 184).

The work at hand is a testament to Pissarro’s inclination towards Neo-Impressionism and is a fascinating case study for his transcending the core tenets of the Impressionist movement. Indeed, he was one of the first members of the Impressionist group to respond to a younger generation of artists who were beginning to push the techniques of Impressionism further. By the early 1880s he had experimented with Seurat’s ground-breaking approach based on a chromatic analysis of painting. He began applying pure colours, in small dots, and placing the emphasis on the act of viewing. The flecks of paint in which the paysanne is rendered is a direct example of this technique. Pissarro understood immediately the benefits of this approach and described these new means of expression as ‘a modern synthesis by methods based on science […]. To substitute optical mixing for the mixing of pigments; in other words: the decomposition of tones into their constitutive elements. Because optical mixing brings about a more intense luminosity than does the mixing of pigments’ (quoted in Camille Pissarro. Le premier des impressionnistes (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., pp. 113-114).

Technique is however not the work’s only point of singularity. In most impressionist works of the 1870s and 1880s, while incidental to the scene, like a passer-by captured in the moment, figures served to remind the viewer of the human scale of the artist's conception, and reflect a gentle equilibrium between human society and its natural environment. However, whilst Monet began to eliminate figures from his landscapes, Pissarro began to make figures the focus of his paintings. In fact, in the Seventh Impressionist Exhibition of 1882, most of the works Pissarro submitted showed his preoccupation with the figure. During this period, Pissarro's "landscape drawings are often reduced to formulas, whilst there is a proliferation of powerful figure studies made from life and from posed models. In these studies, Pissarro explores a variety of postures and activities. The rhythmical outlines, frequently redrawn, evince his obvious pleasure in the rounded forms of the human figure" (C. Lloyd, Pissarro, New York, 1981, p. 94). In this way, his work drew closer to that of Degas and Renoir than to the painting of Monet or Sisley.

Pissarro’s peasants—like the young women depicted—are labourers contributing to the contemporary French economy. Strong, hardy, and often not meant to be perceived as conventionally attractive, they embody a different type of relaxed beauty inspired by fieldwork which Pissarro sought to portray in the pictorial realm. The present work views farming as a cooperative pursuit, balanced by ample opportunities for leisure. The daydreaming peasant girl in this composition is therefore entirely a part of the modern world, rather than a dying tradition amidst the rapid industrialization of France. Even though she is caught in a reverie, Pissarro’s peasant girl, makes a strong statement about cooperation and the division of labour.

While the dual influence of Corot and Millet can be seen in his canvasses, Pissarro certainly stands out from his predecessors through his representation of rural life celebrated for its humility, dignity and simplicity. The 19th-century masters' idealistic and sometimes even complacent view of this world, praising its attachment to the soil, tradition and hard work, in contrast to an ostentatious urban world, is not the view adopted by Pissarro. Although the artist appears to show a certain respect for these men and women who work hard and are satisfied with so little, he stops short of allowing his portraits to be picture postcards.

These are real portraits, rather than simple genre scenes. Pissarro stands out in this respect from his contemporaries who, in the early days of the Third Republic, only produced portraits to order, commissioned by wealthy patrons. By producing portraits of ordinary rural subjects, Pissarro affirmed his independence, despite his considerable financial difficulties, empowering them in some way through his painting by placing them on the same level as the wealthiest members of the middle class. The painter did not attempt to embellish rural life, however. His subjects are represented as he sees them, sometimes in a state of destitution which he makes no attempt to conceal. He therefore remains loyal to his concept of painting, to an art which obeys the laws of Impressionism, which sublimates reality without seeking to deceive.

Pissarro, in the manner of Degas, seems to capture the moment without the girl, whose face is only partly visible, being aware of it. The viewpoint adopted - close-up and looking down - plunges the viewer into an intimacy with the model, carrying her basket, she looks to the side down on the second female figure. The pointillism further accentuates the modernity of a work whose subject could appear traditional at first glance. Like Degas with his dancers, pressers and milliners, Pissarro testifies here to women's lot in a way which is largely absent from representations of the period and totally ignored by some leading Impressionists such as Monet or Sisley. The painter therefore provides us with a unique vision of his time.

The provenance further adds to the intimate nature of the work presented. Indeed, it was acquired by famous Impressionist artist Marie Cassat from Galerie Durand-Ruel as a gift for her brother Alexander J. Cassat in 1888. It is now being offered by a distinguished British collector who is parting with it after twenty-five years.

More from Impressionist and Modern Art Day and Works on Paper Sale

View All
View All