Following the fall of the Commune, Pissarro returned from England to Louveciennes, where he stayed until 1872. His house at 22 rue de Versailles had suffered at the hands of the Prussians. His sister-in-law, Julie Vellay described in a letter to him that "....the road is in a pitiful state. The road is unmanageable for cars, the houses are burned, windows, shutters, staircases and doors, are gone...[It] is uninhabitable" (ed. J. Bailly-Herzberg, Correspondance de Camille Pissarro, Paris, vol. I, pp. 69-70). In spite of this, his palette began to show a greater spontaneity and brightness, perhaps as a result of the artist's close contact with Monet. The two had worked together before the war (Monet had been Pissarro's guest at Louveciennes) and had fled to England together.
The village is one of several near Paris that stretch out along the Seine. The scene depicted in the present work is edge of the road that leads from Saint-Germain to Versailles and shows the wider range of imagery that the suburbs could offer. John Rewald notes that "In Louveciennes he [Pissarro] could...find suitable subjects on the wide tree-lined streets dotted with isolated houses and occasional villas" (J. Rewald, Pissarro, New York, 1963, p. 72).
Winter scenes appealed to Pissarro and his colleagues, who were attracted to the play of light and shadow against the glistening surface of the snow, and to transforming familiar objects into new shapes and colors. Katherine Rothkopf writes:
"Despite the relatively large number of winter paintings in Pissarro's oeuvre (approximately eight percent of his entire output), he is not best known for his snowscapes... He was, however, extremely proud of his effet de neige compositions and exhibited at least nine views of winter at the eight Impressionist exhibitions held periodically from 1874 to 1886, with relatively few breaks over the course of his career" (K. Rothkopf, "Camille Pissarro: A Dedicated Painter of Winter," Impressionists in Winter Effets de Neige, exh. cat., Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection, and San Francisco, The Fine Arts Museums, September 1998-May 1999, pp. 39-40).
In the same year Pissarro received a commission from Achille Arosa to paint a series of four horizontal works of the four seasons (sold Christie's, New York, 5 November 1991, lot 36), to be placed as over-mantels in his home. L'Hiver (fig. 1) painted later that year in Louveciennes, may be considered the most successful with its panoramic overview of the village's rooftops, and shares the same palette and brushwork as La route de Versailles Saint-Germain Louveciennes. The artist produced a smaller version of the present work, omitting one of the figures and the house at the right (Pissarro and Venturi, no. 131).
(fig. 1) C. Pissarro, L'Hiver, 1872.
sold, Christie's, New York, 5 November 1991, lot 36.