Les cordonniers represents a stage in Pissarro's work which evinced a new interest in color, composition and texture. The detailed attention to color and atmospheric effects seen in the present work was well represented by his fellow Impressionists at the 7th Impressionist Exhibition in Paris in 1882 in which Pissarro exhibited thirty-six works.
During the three years leading up to the 1882 exhibition Pissarro developed an almost feathery technique which led him to dissect light and saturate his work with fresh, luminous colors. The present work belongs to that formative period. In Les cordonniers, Pissarro uses the play of light entering from a window on the left to unite the figures with their surroundings and each other, bathing the entire scene in a glowing, golden light. Through the consistent textural treatment and broad forms of the figures, Pissarro flattens space and creates a decorative image. Structurally, Pissarro uses a rectilinear organization introducing several repeated verticals to provide compositional stability, which he has emphasized here by the chair and the horizontal line of the cordonniers' left arms. The curves of the cordonniers' bodies are set against the space of the room, disguising their angled recession and illustrating Pissarro's mastery in depicting mood and structure. The grand scale of the present work, usually reserved for paintings on canvas, announces it as one of the most important and accomplished drawings by the artist.
Commenting on Pissarro's experiments of the late 1870s Joel Isaacson has written: "Most striking in the formal sense is the elaboration of fine-grained multi-hued colour application and distribution, the result in good part of an enlivening interest in colour theory. The complex build up of small, irregular strokes yielded increasingly a heavily-textured granular surface that attested to the long deliberation that went into the execution of each painting, a factor further indicated by the decrease, beginning in 1880, in the number of paintings he produced each year" (in The New Painting, Impressionism 1874-1886, San Francisco, 1986, p. 386). That Pissarro achieved this technique in oil was impressive, that he was able to achieve the same bright, fresh, and highly-textured finish in pastel was an extraordinary and triumphant accomplishment.