Pissarro at Home in Paris


Jeanne Pissarro, Called Cocotte, Reading, 1899, PDRS 1297, Private collection.

Pissarro and his family spent the winter of 1899 in Paris on the rue de Rivoli, where he painted fourteen views of the Tuileries from his third floor window.1 At that time, he painted several still lifes of flowers and a few interiors featuring his 18-year-old daughter including this one, Jeanne Pissarro, Called Cocotte, Reading (1899) [PDRS 1297].

Jeanne is pictured in the rue de Rivoli apartment on a settee covered with a large red throw. She is almost in the center of the canvas, the painting seems somewhat unbalanced: the settee and a rug fill the left side; the space on the right is empty except for a chair positioned behind the sofa.  The right side of the canvas features the edge of a doorway allowing a glimpse into the room beyond.

This colorful painting is a plethora of patterns layered one on the other. Most dominant are the patterns of the red coverlet and the flowered rug. The chair on the right is covered in fabric of red and white, and in the room beyond is another colorful rug. Behind the settee, the walls are covered in textures of blue, grey, and pink, layered over with paintings in every possible space. Even the wooden floor is laid in a herringbone pattern. The overlaying of intense patterns in bright colors suggest what Henri Matisse would do a few years later in many of his paintings.

It is entirely possible that Matisse may have seen this painting of Jeanne. Hilary Spurling wrote that Matisse visited Pissarro regularly, “conducting an increasingly companionable dialogue with the older artist,”2 during this expedition and the following winter of 1899-1900 when Pissarro returned to rue de Rivoli for another series of the Tuileries.3

Henri Matisse, Interior with a Young Girl (Girl Reading), 1906, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Perhaps Matisse recalled this picture a few years later when he made a painting of his own daughter Marguerite, Interior with a Young Girl (Girl Reading) (1906). Behind the girl are vases of flowers and brightly tinted walls layered with paintings. The table, covered with blue and red figures seems to tilt forward.  

1 Pissarro and Durand=Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro: Catalogue Critique Des Peintures, 1:287-90.

2 Spurling, The Unknown Matisse, 178.

3 Ibid., 190.

I am honored that my latest book, Abstract Pissarro, was included in a review by David Carrier for Hyperallergic https://hyperallergic.com/589404/the-end-of-art-history/

Abstract Pissarro is available online at Bookshop, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

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