Painted in 1902, Statue d'Henri IV, matin, soleil (2e série), belongs to the series of paintings Pissarro painted from the apartment he rented in 28 place Dauphine, on the Ile-de-la-Cité. Pissarro had just completed his Dieppe and Éragny autumn series and returned to Paris for the winter. He began work on his second place Dauphine series. The apartment at 28 place Dauphine enjoyed views over the Square du Vert-Galant, with the statue of Henri IV depicted in the present work, the Pont Neuf, the Seine, the Pont des Arts and the façade of the Louvre running parallel to the river. In fact from his vantage point on the second floor 'wherever his eyes turned, they discovered splendid vistas, open spaces, grandiose architecture, lively traffic, or broad expanses of water. Never had he been presented with such a diversified choice of enticing motifs, unfolding around a single spot' (J. Rewald, Camille Pissarro, London, 1963, p. 154). Between 31 October 1901 and 17 May of the following year, Pissarro painted twenty-six oils from his window here (W.1400-1425). Given the majority of these canvases capture the view from his window overlooking the Square du Vert-Galant at this time, this appears to be his preferred aspect. Four of these paintings include the Statue of Henri IV in the composition (W.1400, W.1402, Banco de la República, Colombia; W.1421, Arkansas Arts Centre; and the present work). Two are painted in the morning in sunshine, one at sunset under frost, and a fourth in the in the morning in the rain. Only the present work enjoys the bustle of people and is bathed in a golden light. In looking at, Statue d'Henri IV, matin, soleil (2e série), one can well see why Gustave Geffroy declared of Pissarro: 'He then became finally what he had been only intermittently: a landscape painter of cities' (Geffroy, quoted in R.R. Brettell & J. Pissarro, The Impressionist and the City: Pissarro's Series Paintings, exh.cat., Dallas, Philadelphia & London, 1993, p. 51).
Pissarro himself was obviously excited about the potential of the apartment in 28 place Dauphine when he first rented it, having exhausted, to his mind, the potential of the views from his former address. The location of this apartment may have appealed to the ever-political Pissarro, as it was in a house that had formerly been the home of Madame Roland, a famous figure of Revolutionary France whose celebrated last words, as she went to the guillotine, were, 'O liberté, que de crimes on commet en ton nom!' None of the other Impressionists focussed on the theme of the cityscape to the same extent as Pissarro, possibly preferring to capture images of change in nature. Pissarro retained a fascination for rural themes, but increasingly turned towards the city as his theme, possibly another reflection of his political tendencies. For the countryside, in the age of industry, was of decreasing relevance to the lives of many people. Urbanisation meant that more and more people were living city life, and it may have been in part in order to retain a sense of currency that Pissarro decided to paint pictures such as Statue d'Henri IV, matin, soleil (2e série).
At the same time, one wonders whether perhaps the movements of the people were not to Pissarro as the wind rustling the leaves was to other Impressionists. In his Paris pictures, it is in the sky, the leaves on the occasional tree, and also in the clothing on display that the season is judged. The people themselves give a sense of a captured moment and of passing time, a factor that is increased by the contrast between their scale and the monumentality of the statue above them. The contrast in scale is also underlined by the bird-like vantage-point from which Pissarro has chosen to render this scene. He is high above street level, as he was in many of his cityscapes over the years, deliberately selecting apartments to rent that benefited from an elevated position. This adds both a dynamism and a sense of scale, of the ant-like movements of the people below, to Statue d'Henri IV, matin, soleil (2e série).
These working hours were discussed in some detail by Robert de la Villehervé. Although his comments were made regarding Pissarro's paintings of Le Havre, they nonetheless provide an intriguing insight into the working methods and perfectionism of the Impressionist:
'Up at 5a.m., he would start off his day immediately... You would have seen in his bedroom which turned out to be his last studio two crates in which he would tightly pack his canvases. There he would keep half a dozen of his figure pictures; they soon were diligently sketched, and then he would resume each one, as long as the conditions, the time, the state of the sky, the light would allow it. Indeed, he resumed his works following these rules, never putting a brushstroke down at random, but striving to interpret nature, constantly observed, as accurately as he could, with his marvellous sensibility. And gradually his works were gaining completion... as they were constantly resumed with the most uncommon patience: this is the reason why he had to have prepared several canvases, sun or rain effects, morning or evening, windy or still weather. This way, his work could be carried out daily as he wished. The weather truly had to be gruesome, and all things had to look quite dull, colourless and discouraging before he would resign himself not to do anything... Nothing would then distract him. He would, however, smoke small cigars, but never in front of his easel. Meticulous as he was, he would frequently clear off his palette, scratching off the lumps of colours with his palette knife, before squeezing out the rainbow colours, neat and pure, from his pewter tubes, together, of course, with the silver white, which is light' (R. de la Villehervé, quoted in Brettell & Pissarro, op.cit., 1993, p. XLIX).
It is fascinating to note that Pissarro himself, in discussing his methods of painting with la Villehervé, focussed on his interest not in the human content of his pictures, but rather in the more formal appearance of the shapes and forms. In this sense, it is implied, Statue d'Henri IV, matin, soleil (2e série) has been painted because of its formal qualities rather than the people passing by the statue:
'His method was unwavering. He always started a painting by searching for a harmony between the sky on one hand, and earth and water on the other. Then only would he care for details. He himself used to say so: 'I can see only patches. When I start off a painting, the first thing I strive to catch, is its harmonic form [l'accord]. Between that sky and that ground and that water there is necessarily a link. It can only be a set of harmonics [relation d'accords], and this is the ultimate hardship with painting. What I find of less and less interest through my art, he also used to say, is the material side of painting, i.e. the lines. The great problem to resolve is to bring everything, including the tiniest details of the picture, within the harmony of the whole' (R. de la Villehervé, quoted in Brettell & Pissarro, op.cit., 1993, p. XLIX).
Inspired by the variety and beauty of the subjects viewed from 28 place Dauphine, Pissarro infused these townscapes 'with such delicacy and liveliness, such a superb mixture of intimate observation and broad execution, that they found grace even before his critical eyes. "These pictures are the best I have made", he admitted' (J. Rewald, Camille Pissarro, London, 1963, p. 154).
For the past century Statue d'Henri IV, matin, soleil (2e série) has been conserved in just two private collections. Henri Duhem was the first private owner of the painting, probably purchased from Bernheim-Jeune shortly after 1902. Henri Duhem, a descendant from an old Flemish family, was born in Douai in 1860. A lawyer at the court of Douai, he renounced his career to devote himself completely to painting. In 1899, he met Mane Sergeant, a young woman painter whom he married the following year. Comrade-in-arms to the Post-Impressionists, Henri was, like Gustave Caillebotte, a passionate collector. He acquired the paintings that he liked, those of his friends and their immediate precursors, and succeeded in forming a very representative group consisting in paintings, pastels and sculptures by Boudin, Carrière, Corot, Gauguin, Guillaumin, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Rodin, Lebourg and Le Sidaner. Much of their collection was donated to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, Paris in 1987, but Statue d'Henri IV, matin, soleil (2e série) was bought by Wildenstein from the Duhem's in 1953 and sold to a New York private collector in 1956, in whose family's collection it has remained until the present day.