Archive for the 'Art' Category

PISSARRO IN BASEL – Exhibition Video

#CamillePissaro #Pissarro #KunstmuseumBasel #RondestHouse #Pontoise #Impressionism #Art #frenchartist #oilpainting #artexhibition #Pissarroexhibition #arthistory #fineart #France #Basel

The Rondest-House, L’Hermitage, Pontoise, 1875, oil on canvas, 21.7 x 18.1 inches, (PDRS 395)

This Pissarro painting, The Rondest-House, L’Hermitage, Pontoise. is featured in the current exhibition, Camille Pissarro: The Studio of Modernism. It is a recent (2021) gift of Dr. Klaus Berlepsch to the Kunstmuseum Basel.

Pontoise may have been Pissarro’s favorite place to paint. He lived there twice, from 1866-1868 and again after the Franco-Prussian War from 1872-1882, and it was there that he created many of his most innovative and memorable paintings. L’Hermitage was a close suburb of Pontoise, just over the hill from the center of town. Easel in hand, Pissarro roamed through the neighborhoods looking for interesting motifs, and he made several paintings in this area.

Painted in 1875, the year after the First Impressionist exhibition, it seems to defy many of the more familiar characteristics of Impressionism with its somber autumnal colors and closed-off view due in large part to the horizontal format. As he frequently does, the artist contrasts distinct curves with the sharp angles of the large house, which dominates the painting. In the lower right corner, a soft curve is barely indicated by a dark shadow in what appears to be golden leaves or straw. Above it, the path carves a larger, almost identical curve brightened perhaps by a ray of sunlight. The steep hillside behind the girl forms a curve in the opposite direction. On the left side of the canvas, a crook of tree trunk pushes the curves into a vertical format—radical because the tree has no visible roots and only one indication of branches going into the sky. Cropping a tree in this manner was totally against the standards of academic art of the day, but Pissarro delighted in breaking the rules.

The flattened image of the house pushes the foreground forward resulting in the closed-off view of this particular spot. Very little is shown on the left beyond the house to suggest perspective. The roughness of the gray and tan walls is defined by the stippling effect of the thick paint, evidence of the artist’s hand. A thin screen of scraggly trees emphasizes the verticality of the house.

The colors suggest autumn or early winter with a gray sky and leafless trees. The only bright color is the golden strip on the pathway suggesting a ray of light from the fading sun. To the right of the young girl on the path is a chicken, which together with another chicken, makes a line to a tall man (her father, perhaps) almost hidden among the tree trunks. Neither of them is the focal point of the painting; in fact, it would be hard to identify a specific focal point. The eye travels all over the painting from the crisscross brushstrokes on the ground to the chimney and down again through the heavily textured walls to the bright spikiness on the path, a mélange of subtle colors and materiality.

The exhibition will be at the Kunstmuseum Basel until January 23, 2022 when it will move in a smaller edition to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, U.K.

The Kunstmuseum Basel has posted a superb video of the entire exhibition. Use this link:  Or go to the museum’s website:

PISSARRO: Portrait of Minette

Portrait of Jeanne Pissarro, Called Minette, 1872, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Conn., PDRS 282

This touching portrait of Pissarro’s seven-year-old daughter, Jeanne-Rachel (called Minette), one of thousands of paintings seized by the Nazis, is featured in an exhibition, Afterlives: Recovering the Lost Stories of Looted Art, at the Jewish Museum in New York City until January 9, 2022.

Pissarro made the painting in 1872 and gave it to his dear friends Ludovic Piette and his wife Adele, who were especially close to Camille and his wife Julie. They had visited the Piette family many times at Montfoucault, their farm in Brittany. During the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, when Prussian soldiers drew near to their home in Louveciennes, Camille and Julie fled to Montfoucault. At the time, Minette was five and Lucien, their son, was seven. During their three-month stay, another daughter, Adele Emma was born, but died two weeks later.

The Piettes, who had no children, were especially fond of the Pissarro children. Upon receiving the painting, Piette wrote Pissarro, “I come to the little portrait. I didn’t dare speak to you about it. It’s a great pleasure for me to have it: the little girl, the recollection of your stay here, your journey to England, everything…retraced for us; and also the painter’s ragout, those wan, somewhat sickly tones, that transparent skin, that ash blonde hair of the little one, what a feast for the eyes you have made of them: a sketch no doubt, and one that is all the more delightful to me, a [mere] sketcher.”

Minette became ill in the fall of 1873 and died a few months later on April 6. Piette generously returned her portrait to the grieving Pissarro family. The painting was recovered from a Nazi train in August, 1944. It is now in the collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Conn.

Pissarro: Critical Catalogue of Paintings, Vol II, p. 223.

New York Post, August 20, 2021


#pissarro #pissarro’sbirthday #Impressionism #Pontoise #10July #art #paintings #radicalpaintings #pointillism #Seurat #CamillePissarro #KunstmuseumBasel #Pissarroexhibition

Chestnut Trees in Osny, 1883, Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, Switzerland PDRS 715

July 10 is the 191st birthday of Camille Pissarro. Born in 1830 in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, he became a great artist—one whose early paintings were daring, radical and uncompromising. Even today, his paintings challenge what is currently believed about Modern art.

By the time he made this painting, Chestnut Trees in Osny, he had moved to Paris (1855), defied academic art, walked away from the Paris Salon (even though 11 of his paintings were accepted there), spearheaded the Impressionist movement and taken part in seven Impressionist exhibitions (he would be part of the eighth, as well), and was well on his way into what would become Pointillism.

Pissarro had lived with his family in Pontoise, just north of Paris from 1866-1868 and again from 1872-1882. But it had become too expensive, and they moved to the nearby village of Osny until he could find a more suitable place to settle. It was during this time in 1883 that he made this painting of a large old chestnut tree.

The composition may seem somewhat conventional for Pissarro, who often confounds the eye with diagonal lines and overlapping images. But it shows just how close Pissarro already was to the pointillist technique, which he would embrace two years later in 1885 when he met Seurat.  Even as a young painter in the Caribbean (1852-54), Pissarro was using tiny brushstrokes in many separate, unblended shades of yellow and green.

In this painting, the tiny specks of paint are most evident in the foreground where the shaded green and yellow background is dotted with dark green and white, portraying sunlight through unseen foliage at the top of the tree. A patch of full sunlight just beyond is portrayed by touches of yellow, white and pale green. The distant tree on the left shows no painted structure of trunk and limbs; it is composed entirely of dabs of paint, dark green interspersed with lighter green and yellow. The only full brushstrokes are the brown and dark grey ones that compose the trunk and branches of the big tree and the tiny strokes that make up the blue and grey roofs of the little white houses in the distance.

This wonderful painting is at the Kunstmuseum Basel, and perhaps it will be part of the exhibition opening there on September 4 entitled Camille Pissarro: The Studio of Modernism. Information about the exhibition says: “Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) ranks among the most distinguished artists of nineteenth-century France. To retrace the arc of his exceptionally diverse oeuvre is to witness the birth of modernism. And yet today’s histories of art often cast Pissarro in a subsidiary role.”  Perhaps this important exhibition will lay the groundwork for recognizing Pissarro as the innovator of Modern art that he was.  For more information on the exhibition:

 I am honored that my latest book, Abstract Pissarro, was included in a review by David Carrier for Hyperallergic

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

Visit my website for more information on Pissarro and my books:

PISSARRO: Springtime in the Orchard

#Pissarro #CamillePissarro #Pontoise #Louveciennes #Spring #Durand-Ruel #Impressionism #Orchards #CathedralSaint-Maclou #Franco-PrussianWar #NationalGalleryofArt #abstractpissarro #pissarrosplaces

Orchard in Bloom, 1872, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., PDRS 248

Camille Pissarro painted Orchard in Bloom in the spring of 1872 in the fields and orchards of Pontoise. It was a homecoming of sorts. Pissarro had lived in Pontoise before, from 1866 to 1868 when he moved to Louveciennes. Then in 1870, the Franco-Prussian war forced Pissarro and his family to flee, first to Brittany and then to London. When he returned to Louveciennes in 1871, he found that most of his paintings and drawings—a lifetime of work—had been destroyed. A few months later, in early April 1872, he moved his family back to Pontoise to begin anew.

This painting captures the promise of spring and new beginnings. The trees heavy with blossoms speak of fruit to come. The plowed earth, warm under the midday sun, provides a fertile bed for seeds that will yield the summer’s vegetables. This small orchard was probably close to Pissarro’s home at 16 rue Malebranche (now 18 rue Revert).1 The tall gray shadowy spire in the distance is probably the bell tower of the Cathédrale Saint-Maclau, which is situated on a high hill in the center of town where Pissarro lived.2

Pissarro places the focal point, the large straight flowering tree, well to the left of center, creating an asymmetrical composition. He divides the painting in the center with a path running straight back to the vanishing point on the horizon (this is a favorite device of the artist). On the left are the flowering trees; on the right, the fertile fields give way to the town. Then he ties the two together with a broken diagonal, from the bent tree which extends to distant foliage and points to the bell tower.

The warmth of the sun turns the earth reddish mauve, dark patches showing its rough furrows. The tree trunks, solid in shades of greenish grey, make dark purple shadows on the ground. The branches are beginning to leaf out in shades of dark forest to pale apple green. The bright blue of the sky is tinged with pale lavender near the horizon and falls to earth to accent the man’s pants and the woman’s apron.

This painting, made in April 1872, was promptly purchased by Paul Durand-Ruel in just three months, July 1872. It now lives at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., ensuring that the promise of spring is available to one and all.

1Pissarro: Critical Catalogue of Paints, Vol. I, p. 135 and Vol II, p. 202.

2An etching made of this Pissarro painting by Gustave Marie Greux in 1873 uses the title An Orchard in Louveciennes. However, the catalogue raisonne (Vol II, p. 202) places this painting after Pissarro’s return to Pontoise. Because of my many visits to houses where Pissarro lived in Pontoise, I identified the gray shadow in the distance as the Cathédrale bell tower. I verified the closeness of Pissarro’s house to the Cathédrale on the map. I have also visited the house where Pissarro lived in Louveciennes, which is on the outskirts of town and not near any bell tower that I recall. I welcome any comments on this difference of opinion.

 I am honored that my latest book, Abstract Pissarro, was included in a review by David Carrier for Hyperallergic

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

Visit my website for more information on Pissarro and my books:

Pissarro in Germany

#Pissarro #CamillePissarro #Museum Barberini #Potsdam #Germany #Ashmolean #Impressionism #Snowscene #Snow #Eragny #Sunset #AbstractPissarro

View of Bazincourt, Effect of Snow, Sunset, 1892, Museum Barberini, Potsdam, Germany, PDRS 969

The quiet stillness of the winter afternoon is almost palpable in this masterpiece by Pissarro. Nothing is moving except the sun and the colored shadows it casts on the snowy meadow. He painted this same view two other times that year; one on a frosty morning (PDRS 966) and another on an overcast day (PDRS 970). When the three were exhibited together in an exhibition of Pissarro’s works at Durand-Ruel’s gallery in March 1894, a critic for L’Art Français wrote: “Never has this painter of light been so felicitous; never has his gaze been so keen, and never has he rendered with such tenderness the sparkle of snow in the glow of early morning or the muted hue and majesty of the village steeple thrusting its purple silhouette into the gold of the setting sun.”1

Earlier that year in the summer, Pissarro painted the same view; but this time the meadow was green with trees in full leaf (PDRS 960). Both of these paintings are at the Museum Barberini in Potsdam, Germany. How wonderful it must be to see them together and compare the seasonal nuances.

View of Bazincourt, Sunset, 1892, Museum Barberini, Potsdam, Germany PDRS 960

The summer view helps us interpret the brushstrokes seen in the snowy painting. It shows a row of small trees in the right foreground, willows lining the tiny Epte River meandering through the meadow behind Pissarro’s house. This painting shows only one of the sharp angles, but the snowy view shows another sharp angle to the left of this one. Just how tiny that river is can be seen in this contemporary photo by the author taken near what was then the Pissarro property.

River Epte, photo by author

Pissarro would have made these paintings from his studio in the barn, seated at a back window facing the village of Bazincourt. A painting made several years earlier from his house shows the big barn on the left and at the back of the meadow, the line of small willows mark the presence of the Epte in front of the heavy bank of trees.

View from my Window, Éragny, 1886, Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford, UK, PDRS 825

The snowy painting is almost abstract with its squiggly lines and heavy brushstrokes, so thick they look like frosting. The expansive meadow in the foreground appears to be white, but is touched with pale violet shadows at the lower edge fading to even lighter lemon streaks nearer the trees. The sky fills the top of the canvas with shadings in reverse colors, more light lemon tinged with even lighter violet. The sun itself is cold, a brittle lemon yellow—not at all the golden sun most artists paint.  In the middle are leafless trees, surreal in appearance, no more than grey-green brushstrokes. The little willows, so verdant in the summer painting, are tiny marks, unidentifiable in this setting. The steeple is a sharp little point above a tiny patch of crimson which must be the church. Another bit of crimson adorns a cottage while random patches of soft pink pull the gaze around the painting.

At first glance, the eye sees only the beauty of the snowy scene. But a closer, more intimate look reveals the delicate colors and elegant brushstrokes—a rich reward for spending a few moments in the company of Pissarro.

1Pissarro: Critical Catalogue of Paintings, Pissarro and Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, 2005, Vol. III, p. 632.

I am honored that my latest book, Abstract Pissarro, was included in a review by David Carrier for Hyperallergic

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

PISSARRO and Impressionist Painting in Switzerland

#KunstmuseumBasel #Pissarro #Impressionism #Pontoise #l’Hermitage #abstract #landscape #composition #abstractpissarro

A View of l’Hermitage, Pontoise, 1878, Kunstmuseum Basel, gift from some art lovers, acquired in 1912 with a contribution from the Basel government Inv. 871, PDRS 553

Pissarro’s painting, A View of l’Hermitage, Pontoise, was the first Impressionist painting in a museum collection in Switzerland, according to the website of the Kunstmuseum Basel.[1] When it appeared in an exhibition on French Impressionism in the Kunsthalle Basel in 1912, a group of artists and art lovers arranged for its acquisition and placement in the Basel Public Art Collection. The museum writes: “It was not only the first Impressionist painting to be included in the collection of the Kunstmuseum Basel, but also the first picture of this art movement in Switzerland.”

This lovely painting depicts an area that Pissarro knew well. He must have enjoyed this particular scene; he had painted it twice before in 1874 (A Corner of l’Hermitage, Pontoise, PDRS 356) and again in 1875 (View of the Côte des Gratte-Coqs, Pontoise, PDRS 407).[2] The scene is familiar, and the eye tends to see what it expects—plowed earth in the left corner, a woman tending the leafy green vegetables, a cluster of neat village houses behind a scraggly dead tree pointing to fields on the hillside. A lovely, uncomplicated landscape, it seems.

And yet, a closer look reveals Pissarro’s determination to do things differently. The patch of dirt in the left corner is part of a circle and the first of several concentric bands that radiate all the way up the hill and into the sky. The second band marked by the woman is bright green; the third dull green one contains the standing man. Behind him, the fourth band is formed by roofs of sheds at the foot of the scraggly tree, and the crest of the hill on the horizon forms the fifth band. Even the full branch of the large tree follows the curve and points to the white clouds that continue the arch in the sky. Only the straight line of houses in the center breaks the pattern.

There’s more. A closer look reveals that the houses have no volume; they are flat as signboards. Only as the line moves to the left and one house overlaps another is there any suggestion of perspective. There are no shadows to indicate depth. There is no attempt at realism; broad visible brushstrokes form the roofs and sides of the houses as well as the roofs of the sheds, which look like flat color blocks. The workers are formed with few brushstrokes, and though the man’s face is visible, there are no features. Even the lush summer foliage of the tree isn’t real; it is simply a construction of diagonal hatch marks.

This looks like a typical Impressionist landscape because that is what the eye expects to see. In fact, it is a demonstration of composition and brushstrokes that eight decades later would become part of the abstract painter’s lexicon. Its beauty is certainly there to be enjoyed, but how much richer and more interesting it becomes when Pissarro’s radical techniques are recognized.

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I am honored that my latest book, Abstract Pissarro, was included in a review by David Carrier for Hyperallergic

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


[2] Pissarro:Critical Catalogue of Paintings, (2005) Vol. II, p. 379.

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

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

Pissarro in Rouen

Rue de l’Epicerie in Rouen, Effect of Sunlight, 1898, Metropolitan Museum of Art, PDRS 1221

On his trip to Rouen in 1898, Pissarro made three paintings of the rue de l’Épicerie, one of Rouen’s oldest streets lined on each side by sixteenth-century gabled houses. A large open-air market on Fridays had been held continuously in that place since the thirteenth century. This painting shows the street at midmorning, bustling with shoppers and vendors. Though the towers of the Cathedral Notre-Dame appear at the top, little is seen of the south doorway which melds into the façade of nearby buildings. The center of the painting is full of long vertical brushstrokes heavy with paint which ignore any detail. Smaller buildings on either side are composed of flat blocks of paint stacked haphazardly in almost cubist fashion. The people filling the street are mere brushstrokes, clothed in various colors. While there is no clear focal point, the sheer verticality of the church towers, multi-storied buildings and movement of people in the street push the eye up and down again. Another painting of the same scene (not shown here) portrays a rainy morning with few people on the street.

Rue de l’Epicerie in Rouen, Late Afternoon, 1898. Private collection. PDRS 1223

Perhaps the most dramatic of the three paintings is Rue de l’Épicerie in Rouen, Late Afternoon (1898) showing deep shadows cast by the setting sun. With the few pedestrians relegated to the sidelines, Pissarro focused on the cobblestone street in the foreground, flattened buildings on each side providing framework. The doorway of the cathedral, a major focal point for other artists, is reduced to simple brushstrokes, suggesting the Gothic arches Pissarro so admired. Rushing from its portals are a series of color blocks on the cobblestones filling the foreground. The largest one, slabs of paint ranging from dark blue to gray, is nearly rectangular, extending from the cathedral door to the lower edge. A large triangle of red, dark orange, and tawny beige fills the lower-left corner. A similar segment lies to the right of the blue section. Slicing across the right corner is a small, bright-yellow triangle, shading into orange. The whole geometric effect is one of primary color blocks, giving importance to blue, bordered by reds, and accented by a touch of yellow— obviously the abstract pattern Pissarro wanted to highlight.

Chapelle de la Fierte de St. Romain, Rouen, photo by author, c. 2010

While making these three paintings, Pissarro may have stood on the steps of the Chapelle de la Fierte de St. Romain, a small elevated chapel built in 1542. According to legend, St. Romain saved Rouen from a monster with the help of a criminal. Beginning in 1210 on Ascension Day, the cathedral was allowed to release a prisoner who then carried the saint’s relics up to the chapel and raised them three times before the crowd of people. The practice ended in 1790 during the Revolution.

Rue de l’Epicerie, photo by author c. 2010

During World War II, many of the historic buildings on the street were destroyed. Miraculously, the historic chapel remained safe though the building behind it was damaged heavily. During the rebuilding process, the old marketplace became a public parking area and modern buildings now line the ancient street leading to the cathedral. Though much has changed, it is still possible to experience the general contour of the motif that Pissarro painted.

I am honored that my latest book, Abstract Pissarro, was included in a review by David Carrier for Hyperallergic

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

Richard R. Brettell 1949-2020

#CamillePissarro #Pissarro #RichardBrettell #Brettell #PissarrosPeople #Impressionism #Pontoise #Paris #Rouen #London #LeHavre #ArtHistory #Art

Screen Shot 2020-07-26 at 8.58.59 AM

Richard R. Brettell Photo: UTDallas

Richard Brettell’s many achievements in the world of art history and museums are being remembered and celebrated today. Perhaps his greatest gift is the tremendous body of knowledge he left us about the life and work of Camille Pissarro. He began his career with Pissarro and his exploration of the artist’s life and work continued throughout his life.

His dissertation became a book on Pissarro’s early life in Pontoise with transformative research that continues to inform investigative study today. His work on Pissarro includes an exhibition on Pissarro’s city paintings of Paris, Rouen, London, Dieppe and Le Havre. His exploration of Pissarro’s figure paintings in the exhibition Pissarro’s People revealed the artist’s personal values as much as his distinctive technique. More recently in Paris, his exhibition of Pissarro’s paintings at Éragny-sur-Epte displayed an amazing variety of motifs and artistic techniques. These examples are just a few of his body of work on Pissarro. In many of his books and exhibitions, he collaborated with Joachim Pissarro, great grandson of the artist, a reflection of their long friendship.

It is for this immeasurable gift of knowledge on Pissarro that I pay tribute to Richard Brettell and remember him today.  Thank you, Rick.


#CamillePissarro #Pissarro #Radicalart #Birthday #July10 #Pontoise #ParisSalon #BrushstrokesVisible #Cubism #Composition #Perspective #ModernArt #Impressionism #Innovations #2030Pissarro #AbstractPissarro #PissarrosPlaces

603 Houses at l'Hermitage 1879

Houses at l’Hermitage, Pontoise, 1879, Private collection PDRS 603

July 10th is the 190th anniversary of the birth of Camille Pissarro. The year 2030, just ten years from now, will be his 200th birthday. By then, perhaps there will be a fuller recognition of his leadership in the creation of Modern art and acknowledgement that he was the first to use many of its artistic innovations.

The painting above, Houses at l’Hermitage, Pontoise (1879), is a superb example of many of those innovations. At first glance, it appears to be just a lovely landscape of pastel-colored houses against a peaceful hillside, like those of many other artists.  But it is so much more! This one virtually demands that you look  closely at the canvas itself with the rough brushstrokes, flatness, and lack of perspective that sets it apart as a radical work of art.

By 1879, landscapes were deemed more acceptable by the Paris Salon as long as they portrayed picturesque vistas like grassy areas, flowers and distant hills. Pissarro’s scene does the exact opposite! It features plowed fields—just dirt—in the foreground. Instead of proper buildings with volume and shadows, Pissarro painted his little cluster of houses with no dimension, perfectly flat on the canvas with heavy brushstrokes that are easily visible. The way he stacks the houses on top of each other suggests Cubism.

Most artists of this period painted landscapes that portrayed distant views with less detail and lighter colors. Pissarro contradicts that practice, painting trees and cultivated fields at the top of the distant hill with rough crisscrossed brushstrokes in colors as vivid as those in the large tree in the foreground. This has the effect of pulling the hillside forward, flattening the entire painting. The fact that Pissarro signed and dated the painting indicates that he considered it to be finished. Everything he did was done with intent and purpose.

These tactics were not new to Pissarro in 1879. He was already using these techniques in the late 1850s when he moved to France to begin his artistic career. As he made friends with other younger artists, he shared his secrets and Impressionism was born! Too often these radical ideas are attributed to other artists, but careful research into Pissarro’s early paintings reveal that he was the first to intentionally use these techniques.

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