Camille Pissarro's paintings of the French landscape confirm the persistence of rural subjects at every stage of the artist's career while their variety documents the transitions in both his creative process and his artistic goals. Art critic Théodore Duret heralded Pissarro's attention to landscape painting in an important letter to the artist in December 1873:
I persist in thinking that nature, with its rustic fields and its animals is that which corresponds best to your talent. You do not have the decorative feeling of Sisley, not the fantastic eye of Monet, but you do have what they don't, an intimate and profound feeling for nature, and a power in your brush that makes a good painting by you something with an absolute presence (quoted in R. Bretell, Pissarro and Pontoise: The Painter in a Landscape, New Haven and London, 1990, p. 165)
Pissarro most often painted the landscape near his home, and his most celebrated canvases are those of the 1870s which depict the areas around Pontoise, where he lived with his family from 1872 to 1882. Joachim Pissarro wrote of Pontoise:
Pontoise, located some twenty-five miles northwest of Paris, had been an important town in the Middle Ages. Its hilltop situation enabled it to serve as a fortess, while the River Oise which passes through it, made it an inland port... Agriculture had dominated the town's economy until the nineteenth century, and the construction of factories and a railway line in the nineteenth century helped the town recover from the decline it had suffered by the end of the previous century. In contrast to Louveciennes, a village of a few hundred inhabitants, Pontoise had a population of several thousand and was a bustling center of poultry and vegetable supplies. Pissarro's new home had a rich variety of architecture that reflected superimposed layers of history, which...presented the painter with a varied and complex range of subjects (J. Pissarro, Camille Pissarro, London, 1993, p. 88).
The reverse of the present work bears a fully resolved flower still-life, executed in a broadly worked style similar to that deployed by Pissarro in the years 1872-74 when he was working closely with Cézanne. Pissarro is known to have re-used canvases as he worked in Pontoise at the end of the 1870s, as well as re-working earlier compositions. One such revised painting is Bouquet de fleurs, pivoines et seringas (P&V 467), now housed in the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. The Chinese vase depicted in the Amsterdam picture, hitherto not recorded elsewhere in Pissarro's published oeuvre, with its pattern of red flowers set amongst a blue serpentine motif, strongly resembles the vase depicted on the verso of the present work.