Archive for June, 2019


blvd montmartre

Boulevard Montmartre, Twilight, 1897, Private collection, PDRS 1170

When the gavel dropped on June 19, 2019 at Sotheby’s London Impressionist sales, Pissarro’s Boulevard Montmartre, Twilight sold for the amazing sum of 7,145,900 GBP, equivalent in American dollars to $9,077,790. 


Many of the paintings Pissarro made during his Paris expedition from February 10 to about April 25, 1897 depict cloudy, overcast, or rainy weather. But in this painting, strong sunlight paints a broad swathe of pinkish gold diagonally across the boulevard, complimentary to the lavender shadows beyond. The rows of Haussmann apartments on the right, usually gray, are tinged with gold, and the brick chimneys are rosy in broad sunlight. The trees lining both sides of the boulevard are leafing out in the tender delicate green of early spring. Even the sky, tinges of pink among the blue, reflects the late afternoon sun.


Because we know this scene so well, whether from experience or from photographs, our eyes tend to fill in what the painter chose not delineate. The brushstrokes are, in fact, mere suggestions with virtually no detail at all. Certain segments of the painting, when isolated, look almost abstract.


1           2

Of the 16 paintings Pissarro did during this expedition, the art dealer Durand-Ruel bought 12 of them. This painting was one that he bought. Pissarro’s painting of the same scene at night during a heavy rainstorm, Boulevard Montmartre, Night Effect, is virtually abstract with colors and shapes dissolving into reflections. Durand-Ruel did not buy that one. Perhaps he thought it too avant-garde for his clients. It is now one of Pissarro’s most loved paintings.

The Boulevard Montmartre at Night, 1897 (oil on canvas)

Boulevard Montmartre, Night Effect, 1897, The National Gallery, London, PDRS 1168 


In time for Pissarro’s 189th birthday

on July 10th

cover for blog

“Abstract Pissarro sheds new light on Camille Pissarro’s innovative and rich painting techniques, highlighting in unparalleled words his role in the birth of modern art. Ann Saul explores, in depth, Pissarro’s continual experimentation and adaptation of new ideas and lays out how artists to this day have continued to be inspired by his work. This book provides a radical and fresh look at art history.

—Joachim Pissarro, art historian and great-grandson of Camille Pissarro

“Ann Saul has a very strong knowledge of the artist’s life and œuvre and a very accurate and sensitive eye.”

—Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, art historian and great-great-granddaughter of Paul Durand-Ruel

Joachim Pissarro and Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts are co-authors of Pissarro: Catalogue Critique des Peintures (2005).

ABSTRACT PISSARRO questions what we believe about Pissarro as an Impressionist and shows how he, in fact, planted the seeds for abstract art in his rebellion against the Paris Salon. The radical innovations he introduced are evident in paintings of the Abstract Expressionists and contemporary abstract painters today.

ABSTRACT PISSARRO is now available on Amazon. For more information or to order a copy from the author, write:









Abstract Pissarro in 1865


103 Banks of the Marne at Chennevieres 1865

Banks of the Marne at Chennevières, c. 1865, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh [PDRS 103]

To appreciate a Pissarro landscape, you first have to get over the fact that it looks like a landscape. Later, after seeing everything else that is there, you will be amazed that it does look like a landscape.   Dana Gordon, abstract artist, New York City1

Those words provide an apt description of Pissarro’s beautiful 1865 painting Banks of the Marne at Chennevières. A picturesque scene like this would ordinarily suggest a narrative or storyline. Instead, Pissarro created a canvas that displays an array of artistic techniques that were totally unacceptable at that time. He used the palette knife to forcefully  spread thick impasto on the canvas. The houses are just slabs of paint sitting on the flat canvas surface. The reflections in the water are mere suggestions of the village. Pissarro constructed trees with back-and-forth strokes, the “constructive” stroke that Cezanne would later adapt, and grasses with thick, heavy streaks of paint. The tiny boat crossing the river is too insignificant to be a focal point, which leaves the painting without a narrative.

Pissarro used this scene to describe three distinct abstract shapes—the bright sky layer at the top; the dark center section including the village, the mountain, and the dark part of the water; and the light reflective band of the water. The darker center section creates a “negative” space in this abstract composition. This effect demonstrates that Pissarro was focusing on forms and the surface of the canvas, revealing movements of the paintbrush and palette knife. The landscape merely provided a design pattern for his unconventional execution. Joachim Pissarro said of this painting: “In fact, his treatment of much of the landscape and the buildings moved very close to abstraction.” 2

1 Dana Gordon, “The Moses of Modernism,” unpublished manuscript (2005).

2 Joachim Pissarro, Camille Pissarro (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1993), 48.

Taken from the new book ABSTRACT PISSARRO. For more information,

#CPissarro #Pissarro #AbstractPissarro #abstract #DanaGordon #Marne #Cezanne #paletteknife #impasto


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