This work will be included in the forthcoming Camille Pissarro catalogue critique of pastels and gouaches, currently being prepared under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Institute.
Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
In 1885, Pissarro met Georges Seurat, the driving force behind Neo-Impressionism, a novel and controversial method based upon the systematic application of paint in dots and governed by the color theories developed by Michel-Eugène Chevreul and Ogden Rood. By the following year, Pissarro had embraced Neo-Impressionism, which he described as "a new phase in the logical march of Impressionism" (quoted in J. Pissarro, Camille Pissarro, New York, 1993, p. 212).
The "divisionist" or "chromoluminist" phase of Pissarro's career was all the more notable for the fact that Pissarro was in his mid-fifties when he adopted this bold new style. Impressed by the theories of "optical mixture," as well as the classical sense of composition that informed Seurat's work, Pissarro not only introduced the technique into his own art but encouraged both Seurat and Paul Signac to exhibit their canvases alongside his at the eighth and final Impressionist exhibition in 1886. This met with fierce opposition from the old-guard and led to Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley and Gustave Caillebotte abstaining from the show.
However, by 1888 Pissarro would ruminate, "How can one combine the purity and simplicity of the dot with the fullness, suppleness, liberty spontaneity and freshness of sensation postulated by our impressionist art. This is the question that preoccupies me, for the dot is meager, lacking in body, diaphanous, more monotonous than simple, even in the Seurats. Particularly in the Seurats... I'm constantly pondering this question" (quoted in J. Rewald, ed., Camille Pissarro, Letters to his son Lucien, Boston, 2002, p. 132).
His solution--as demonstrated by La foire de Gisors--was to present his intermingled colors with very fine, small brushstrokes, creating a weft that, with the counterpoint of contrasting hues, lends great vibrancy to its subject. In the present highly worked gouache depicting a lively fair in the town of Gisors, Pissarro has laid down the paint precisely and methodically--not in the tiny dots of his fellow Neo-Impressionists Seurat and Signac, but in a tapestry of alternately parallel and interlocking strokes, which produce an effect of heightened luminosity. Joachim Pissarro observed, "Even at the height of his Neo-Impressionist period, Pissarro took definite liberties with the 'scientific' rigor of the theories in which he, Seurat, and Signac shared a passionate interest... balancing, in a constant tension, rigor and improvisation, system and individual freedom, science and poetry" (ibid., p. 221).
In 1887, the influential critic Felix Fénéon described the general effect of Neo-Impressionist painting but may as well have referenced the present lot when he stated, "A distance of two steps--and all these variously colored drops melt into undulant luminous masses; the fabrication, one could say, fades away; the eye is attracted only by that which is the essence of painting" (quoted in M. Ward, Pissarro, Neo-Impressionism and the Spaces of the Avant-Garde, Chicago, 1996, p. 91).