If only I were in London this weekend to see this lovely Camille Pissarro painting which will be auctioned at Sotheby’s next week. (PDR 236) This stunning canvas has been in private hands since it was created in 1872 and has not often been exhibited. The pre-sale show at Sotheby’s may be the only opportunity for people like me to see it before it goes back into another private collection.
Painted when Pissarro returned to Louveciennes after the Franco-Prussian war, it is very similar to a painting in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. (PDR 229) That one shows a roofed washhouse built out over the river where women gathered to do the laundry. In the Sotheby painting, the washhouse does not appear. The view suggests that the artist may have carried his easel onto the floor of the washhouse itself which puts him in the midst of the reflections on the Seine.
The entire right side of the canvas is dominated by a bathing house, where the French working class people would go to enjoy their weekends and holidays. Tucked away in a large bank of trees, it suggests leisure and pleasure. The left side of the painting reveals a strong counterpoint. Under a vast expanse of open sky, factories and barges line the other river bank, reminding us of the industrialization underway. A boat is in the center of the river, and it is impossible to tell whether he is headed back to work or rowing toward a free afternoon. How lucky the person will be who wins this beautiful prize at the Sotheby’s sale next week!
*PDR designates the numbers assigned to these paintings in PISSARRO:CRITICAL CATALOGUE (2005).
More about Pissarro’s time and paintings in Louveciennes in PISSARRO’S PLACES, to be published this April by Art Book Annex.com