Archive Page 2

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

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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.

2030 tag







PISSARRO at Musée d’Orsay

#Pissarro #CamillePissarro #Museed’Orsay #Moret #GeorgesPissarro #Sisley #Impressionism #abstract #abstractpissarro #pissarrosplaces #Loingriver #Loingcanal #art #1899 #1902 #Bridgeandprintingplant

1434 The Loing Canal, Moret 1902

The Loing Canal, Moret, 1902, Musée d’Orsay, PDRS 1434

Pissarro painted this lovely summer scene during a visit to Moret in 1902. It was the third time he visited his son Georges in the small village a little more than 50 miles south of Paris. His first visit was in November 1899 when Georges settled there. His son wrote him: “You know, if you want to come to Moret to do some studies, there’s plenty of room, it’s a big house. . . .there’s a little raised garden on a rampart right on the edge of the river, with a lovely view of poplar trees reflected in the Loing. Without even leaving the garden we’re smack in the midst of wonderful motifs.” * While he made no paintings during that first visit, he returned in the spring of 1901 and made seven paintings.

The following year from mid-May to mid-June, Pissarro went back to Moret for a visit with Georges and made twelve paintings. For much of that visit, the weather according to Pissarro was “wretched,” but he made three interiors featuring people of the village. He took full advantage of good weather during the latter part of his visit, finishing nine landscapes, including this one. For this painting, he set his easel beside a canal near the Loing river built to facilitate barge traffic. This painting recalls the Impressionist tradition which Pissarro helped to establish in the early 1870s with its picturesque motif. The large trees on the left frame the picture with their branches creating reflections in the water. It almost seems like a remembrance of paintings by Alfred Sisley, the Impressionist painter who made his home in Moret for more than two decades and painted so many of its lovely views before his death in 1899.

1432 The Bridge and the Printing Plant, Moret 1902

The Bridge and the Printing Plant, Moret, 1902, Private collection, PDRS 1432

While Pissarro may have gone back to his Impressionist roots for that painting, he could not resist applying his abstract vision on others. The second painting, The Bridge and the Printing Plant, Moret, displays his advanced techniques. The buildings are simply blocks of color, totally flat with no apparent volume. The clouds are mere stabs of the paintbrush loaded with blue-grey or white paint. The trees are constructed of tiny diagonal strips in various shades of green. Instead of typical reflections, rough white brushstrokes streak across the water. Separating the white strokes is a narrow strip of yellow, there for no apparent reason other than that it is complementary to the lavender hue of the water. While the first painting of the canal is beautiful and a reminder of lovely summer days, this one is much more interesting than the one in the Orsay—and typical of Pissarro at his best in near abstract expression.

*Pissarro: Critical Catalogue (Joachim Pissarro and Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, 2005)


books on Pissarro’s paintings, are available online

at, AbeBooks,

Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.



PISSARRO at the Hermitage

#Pissarro #CamillePissarro #Hermitage #StateHermitageMuseum #StPetersburg #BoulevardMontmartre #Frenchart #Impressionism #ParisSalon #Grandjean #ChampsElysees #BeauxArts #Paris #DurandRuel #abstract #academicart #Haussmann #abstractpissarro #pissarrosplaces

1165 Blvd. Montmartre 2

Boulevard Montmartre, Afternoon, 1897, The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia, PDRS 1165

One of the world’s great museums, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia is home to an extensive collection of French art.  It is odd, therefore, that they only have two paintings by Camille Pissarro. One of those, Place du Théâtre-Français, the Omnibuses, Spring, Sunlight (1898) [PDRS 1209], was the subject of the previous post.

The other one, Boulevard Montmartre, Afternoon (1897) [PDRS 1165], was made the previous year when Pissarro stayed at the Grand Hôtel de Russie from February 8 to April 25, 1897. His dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, bought 12 of the 16 paintings he made during that time, including this one.

He described the view from his window: “I can see down the whole length of the boulevards clear to the porte Saint-Denis, or nearly, at any rate all the way to the boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle.”* There is nothing of importance in the view—no great monument or imposing building. All of the new Haussmann apartments look the same. The drama is in Pissarro’s depiction of activity—omnibuses and carriages vying for space on the busy street, pedestrians crowding the sidewalks. The viewer is swept up and pulled along into the dense congestion. Everything on the sidelines becomes virtually abstract.

Pissarro’s scenes of Paris streets are so familiar that it is easy to forget how radical they were at the time—the loose brushstrokes capturing a horse in two quick strokes, mere dots of color for windows, white circular motions suggesting clouds.

Another Hermitage painting of a Paris street demonstrates the vast difference in Pissarro’s style and what art viewers of that day were accustomed to seeing. Edmond Grandjean (1844-1908) made his painting, View of the Champs-Elysées from the Place de l’Etoile, in 1878. Born in Paris, Grandjean studied at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. His paintings were exhibited frequently at the Paris Salon from 1865-1906.

Grandjean, Edmond 1878

Edmond Grandjean, View of the Champs-Élysées from the Place de l’Etoile in Paris, 1878

This painting is an excellent example of what Salon paintings looked like—and exactly what Pissarro was fighting against.  It is almost photographic in its accuracy. Instead of colored blobs, the windows look as if they were carefully measured and squared. Grandjean was known for his depiction of horses, and even though they are small, the musculature in these horses is precise. Even the spokes of the wheels on carriages are delineated. The tiny people on the omnibuses are carefully modeled and costumed. This amount of details makes the painting look static, frozen in time. The book French Art Treasures at the Hermitage (Albert Kostenevich) says that this painting is “reminiscent of an illustration from a fashion journal transposed to a panorama: such pictures were extremely popular in the second half of the nineteenth century.” Compared to the Pissarro painting, this one looks like a picture on an old-fashioned tin candy box, with none of the life and vitality of the Pissarro. No wonder Pissarro’s paintings continue to fascinate and intrigue viewers after all these years.

*Pissarro: Critical Catalogue (2005)


books on Pissarro’s paintings, are available online

at, AbeBooks,

Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.


PISSARRO: April in Paris, Chestnuts in Blossom

#Pissarro #Paris #AprilinParis #ChestnutsinBlossom #GrandHôtelduLouvre #Hyatt #PissarroSuite #Omnibuses #Complementarycolors #PaulDurand-Ruel #StateHermitageMuseum #1898 #Pissarro’sParis #PissarrosPlaces #AbstractPissarro

1209 Place du theatre-francaise, apring 1898 2.png

Place du Théâtre-Français, the Omnibuses, Spring, Sunlight, 1898, The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia, PDRS 1209

In April of 1898, Pissarro was still in Paris wrapping up his four-month series of paintings from the windows of the Grand Hôtel du Louvre where he could look down the Avenue de l’Opéra to the Opéra Garnier. He stood in those windows to make this painting and the one featured in the previous post, Place du Théâtre-Français and the Avenue de l’Opéra, Sunlight, Winter Morning. Both of these were purchased by his dealer Paul Durand-Ruel on June 2, 1898 along with ten other paintings of the 15 he made in that series.

His earlier paintings described the winter in Paris—fog, rain, heavy snow, and the occasional clear day with thin sunlight golden on the streets. But by the end of April, spring had no doubt arrived, and Pissarro celebrates its freshness and vitality in this painting. Looking straight down from his windows, he had a perfect view of the omnibuses loading their passengers. These large double-decker carriages seated as many as 18 or 20 people each and were pulled by two or sometimes three horses. The curved stairway on the back allowed access to the upper deck. (Details from historic postcards.)

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The omnibuses are the focal point, of course. Who could resist watching the arrival and departure, the loading and unloading of people? But Pissarro, in his characteristic way, puts all the action in the lower left corner of the canvas, not in the center. Furthermore, he cuts the canvas in half with the two tall trees in the center, reserving the right side for a few pedestrians beneath another tree solidly rooted in the lower right corner. Its leafy crown dominates this side, almost covering the red building and obscuring the sunny façade of the apartments across the way. Meanwhile, the waiting omnibuses vibrate with color, ready to rejoin the hustle and bustle of Avenue de l’Opéra traffic on the left.

The painting is a tour de force of brushwork technique—from the tiny sharp slashes that make the carriages bounce to the short multi-directional leaves and the long smooth parallel strokes of the shadows. The people appear as individuals though each one is only one or two short strokes. The carriages in the distance are distinctive, some open-air and others closed, but none are more than a small touch of paint. Pissarro’s repertoire of brushstrokes was immense, and he used every technique to achieve a singular purpose.

Likewise, Pissarro carefully balanced the colors in the painting—two complementary sets, each in its own space. The greens of the trees, from deep forest green to almost yellow green, a sharp contrast to the red store front below and red and white awnings at the top center of the canvas. Close inspection of the leaves reveals spots of red that heighten the intensity of the green.  Small slashes of white among the green leaves may well represent the white blossoms on chestnut trees blooming this time of year in Paris. On the left side, the lavender shadows are complemented by the pinkish yellow of the sun on the street, providing a delicate balance and unity to the painting.

It is interesting to know that Pissarro’s view is still available at the Grand Hôtel du Louvre in Paris, now a property of Hyatt. When my book Pissarro’s Places was published seven years ago, I took a copy to the hotel and was delighted when they offered me an opportunity to see the rooms where Pissarro painted this series. The view is amazingly the same except for the traffic. The hotel is proud to offer the Pissarro Suite, acknowledging the great artist who created masterpieces from these rooms. (Photos from the website of the Grand Hôtel du Louvre in Paris)

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ABSTRACT PISSARRO and PISSARRO’S PLACES, books about Pissarro’s paintings are available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

If only we could all be in Paris this April to see the chestnuts in blossom, but our place right now is at home.  Stay safe and be well.


PISSARRO – In the Midst of Turmoil

#Pissarro #CamillePissarro #Paris #Dreyfus #anti-Semitism #epidemic #rabbi #Jewish #EmileZola #J’Accuse #GrandeHotelduLouve #Durand-Ruel #LucienPissarro #FelixPissarro #Hausmann #AbstractPissarro #PissarrosPlaces

Place du Théâtre-Français and the Avenue de l’Opéra

Place du Théâtre-Français and the Avenue de l’Opéra, Sunlight, Winter Morning, 1898, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rheims, France, PDRS 1202

Paris, January 1898 – A terrible epidemic as contagious as the virus rampant in the world today—anti-Semitism–was sweeping through all of France.  It divided families, ended long-standing friendships, and sowed seeds of hate and distrust. The Dreyfus affair, in which a Jewish army officer was falsely accused, had mobs in the street. When Émile Zola published his “J’accuse!”, Pissarro sent him a letter assuring him of his support: “Know that I am amongst those who think that you have just rendered a fine service to France…” He also signed a petition in favor of Dreyfus in the newspaper L’Aurore.

Pissarro never tried to conceal his Jewish roots though he was a non-practicing Jew and an atheist. Above all, he was a committed anarchist. With his deep-set eyes and long white beard, he even looked like a rabbi. In his rooms at the Grande Hôtel du Louvre in the center of Paris, he was in the midst of the uproar as riotous crowds gathered every evening. On the 18th of January, he ventured out into the gathering mob to see his dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. He wrote to Lucien about the experience: “Yesterday, while I was making my way along the boulevards to Durand’s at five o’clock, I found myself in the midst of a band of little scamps followed by ruffians shouting: “Death to the Jews!  Down with Zola!” I passed calmly through them to the rue Laffitte, they didn’t even take me for a Jew!” While Pissarro reports his good fortune in getting there safely, he obviously was aware of the imminent danger. There was little relief during Pissarro’s Paris stay. In February, he wrote: “Things have hardly improved.”

On top of the anxiety produced by the very real danger, Pissarro was still grieving for his son Félix who had just died on November 25 and was buried where he died in London. How did Pissarro cope? How did he make some of the most beautiful paintings of his entire life? At one point, he wrote: “Work is a wonderful regulator of mind and body. I forget all sorrow, grief, bitterness, and I even ignore them altogether in the joy of working.”  So he poured himself into this series of paintings, creating the masterpiece featured here.

It must have been early morning because the sunlight streaming on the buildings is especially golden and the blue shadows are still deep. Even though the majestic new opera house at the end of the avenue was already an important landmark, it is merely a shadow. Likewise, the new Hausmann buildings are sketched with few details to catch the eye. Instead, the deep shadows direct the view to the large patch of sunlight not in the center of the canvas, but well to the left, where there is almost nothing. While other artists made pictures featuring things of importance or beauty, Pissarro made paintings that pose questions and engage the intellect. This was Pissarro’s genius. And while acknowledging all that was taking place around him, he was able to continue his work creating this masterpiece.

To all those who read this blog, stay safe and be well.





Pissarro in Cleveland

#Pissarro #ClevelandMuseumofArt #KeithleyGift #Dieppe #Fishmarket #quaiDuquesne #Pissarro’sPlaces #AbstractPissarro

1439 The Fish Market, Dieppe 1902

The Fish Market, Dieppe, 1902, Cleveland Museum of Art, PDRS 1439

Camille Pissarro’s wonderful painting, The Fish Market, Dieppe (1902) [PRDS 1439] is now in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art, thanks to a monumental gift of numerous paintings valued at more than $100 million by Joseph P. and Nancy F. Keithley. The CMA already has two other Pissarro paintings, both from the 1870s, so this addition from the artist’s later works adds important depth to their collection.

This is one of twenty-one views of Dieppe that Pissarro made during his second visit to the city. He arrived in early July 1902 and stayed until the end of September, returning to the Hôtel du Commerce for lodging. To vary his choice of motifs, he rented a different room at 7 Arcades de la Poissonnerie to use as a studio, which gave him views of the harbor, the fish market, and the quai Duquesne in both directions. This painting shows the open-shed fish market which was practically beneath Pissarro’s window. The antique postcard shows the fish market and behind it, the arcade where Pissarro painted his views of the harbor. Just to the right of the fish market were railroad tracks for the train from Rouen which had its terminus on the quai. In another painting, Pissarro showed the arrival of the train with crowds of people lining the tracks. Unfortunately, the train no longer comes into the heart of Dieppe, and that large space has been filled with flower beds.

Postcard - Fish Market

Antique postcard of Dieppe, showing the railroad tracks, the fish market, and the arcades where Pissarro painted.

Arcades de la Poissonnerie, Dieppe

On the right, the Arcades de la Poissonnerie where Pissarro had his studio, Dieppe

Pissarro’s location in the window of the arcade limits his composition choices in this painting and the one with the train. This particular view, looking directly down and to his left, offered him little leeway in arranging pictorial elements. Maybe that is why he made only two paintings of this particular view, obviously preferring to paint the more spacious port areas busy with boats of all sizes and descriptions.

It is hard to determine if the crowd of people in front of the fish market are there in early morning to buy fresh fish or if they are awaiting the arrival of the train. In the center of the painting just above the edge of the crowd is indication of a faint circular line, marked by tiny strokes that may represent people, which may be the railroad tracks. This is easily verified when the two paintings are side-by-side. It is a particular phenomenon in Pissarro’s paintings that very often in the center of the painting, there is simply nothing. And this is one of them; all the action is happening around the center which is empty. Just above the center of the canvas, Pissarro depicts the row of houses that line quai Duquesne as flat blocks with no volume. One steeply pitched red roof seems to draw the eye back to the fish market below. The spindly masts and dark sails of the boats on the right struggle to balance the large building and crowd on the left. Perhaps that is why Pissarro placed a puff of dark smoke above the boats. Since it is similar in color to the roof of the market, it creates a diagonal that pulls the eye upward and to the right of the canvas. The dark smoke could well have been present since some of the steamboats that plied the English Channel also had sails, as Pissarro showed in other paintings from this series.

This Pissarro painting looks simple at first glance, but as is frequently the case with Pissarro, it turns out to be more complicated and far more interesting in a closer look. Pissarro obviously enjoyed the city, writing: “Dieppe is a wonderful place for a painter who likes life, movement, colors.”


In order to share information and insights about Pissarro, I am establishing an email mailing list. I’d like to hear your feedback and what you have learned about Pissarro’s paintings.  To join, please write me at –Ann Saul, art writer and administrator of

ABSTRACT PISSARRO, the book that shows how Pissarro planted the seeds of abstract art in the mid 1850s, is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites.

PISSARRO’S PLACES, the book that explores the places Pissarro painted (including Dieppe), is also available on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites.




#Pissarro #Mardi Gras #BoulevardMontmartre #Paris #parade #Durand-Ruel #Rouen #Lucien #streamers #FatTuesday #canvases #Pointillism

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Boulevard Montmartre, Mardi Gras Afternoon, 1897, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, Calif. PDRS 1163

Pissarro’s return to Paris in February 1897 was encouraged by Paul Durand-Ruel, his dealer who quickly purchased six paintings the artist had made the previous month in the city’s Saint-Lazare Quarter near the train station. This time Pissarro stayed at the Grand Hôtel de Russie in a room that gave him a view of “the whole length” of Boulevard Montmartre. During the nearly three months he stayed there, Pissarro made sixteen paintings, twelve of which were quickly bought by Durand-Ruel.

On March 2, Fat Tuesday (the day before Lent), Boulevard Montmartre was the scene of the Mardi Gras parade, the Promenade du Bœuf Gros (Procession of the Fat Ox), a huge procession more than two kilometers long featuring carnival floats surrounded by men and women in costumes. Spectators who came to see the parade were also in costume, and those watching from the top floors of apartment buildings threw streamers of red, white, and blue.

Pissarro prepared in advance, writing his son Lucien on February 13: “Here I am installed [in my hotel room] coating large canvases [with paint]; I shall try and prepare one or two for painting the crowd on Mardi Gras; I don’t yet know what it will be like, I’m very much afraid the streamers will be a problem.”

Nearly two weeks before the celebration, Pissarro wrote Lucien again: “It will be a matter of painting Mardi Gras, the crowd, for the effect will last only one day. I’m told the boulevards will be crowded one, even two days before.”

While his other paintings of the Boulevard Montmartre portray light carriage traffic and few pedestrians, the painting he made on Fat Tuesday is vastly different. The scene is covered with people; in the center the parade moves forward while spectators spill off the sidewalks into the streets. Each person is a tiny brushstroke or two, but among the mass of black and white coats are lines of red or blue, probably uniforms of groups in the parade. The facades of the buildings and the bare tree limbs are engulfed in a mass of streamers, each one a tiny brushstroke spreading a thin wash of paint over the scene.

No doubt Pissarro’s knowledge of Pointillist technique came in handy as he applied the multitude of tiny brushstrokes. The sharp contrast of bright white points among the darker colors creates a sense of movement as the parade marches forward. His painting was obviously a success because Durand-Ruel bought it from the artist in May and three months later sold it to a collector in Rouen. The painting is now in the collection of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, Calf.

*Information for this post is from Pissarro: Critical Catalogue of Paintings, vol. III by Joachim Pissarro and Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, 2005.



the book that reveals how Pissarro initiated the techniques that became modern art, is now available online:


Barnes and Noble:






#Pissarro #Sotheby’s #Pointillism #London #Impressionist #1888 #Durand-Ruel  #Levy #Nazi #Orsay #Monoprix

857 Gelee Blanche, Jeune Paysanne Faisant du Feu 1888

Gelée blanche, jeune paysanne faisant du feu, 1888, Private collection, PDRS 857

This spectacular painting by Pissarro was the star at Sotheby’s recent Impressionist sale in London.  It sold for $17.3 million, reportedly the second highest price ever paid for a Pissarro painting.

The painting focuses on the young girl and the long stick she is breaking to feed the blazing fire. The stick reaches almost to the top of the canvas, and its bend is reflected in the opposing curve of the girl’s body. This together with the boy’s figure creates what would be a very traditional pyramid composition except for the smoke pulling the eye away from the center to the right. The cows in the background echo the movement as they meander in the same direction.

But the interesting composition pales in comparison with the multitudes of tiny Pointillist brushstrokes in juxtaposing colors. Would the girl’s skirt be blowing so briskly without the different shades of red, purple and orange? Would the smoke billow so thickly without the dots of white, gray, and blue? The orange-yellow and pale blue-lilac horizontal stripes of the field are crisp with frost because of the precise division of color. Pissarro worked on this painting for about a year, and immediately sold it to Durand-Ruel.

In 1930, the painting was sold to collector Gaston Lévy, co-founder of what would become Monoprix, the French supermarket chain. He fled the Nazis in 1940, and this painting was confiscated. After the end of the war,  it was found in a private collection, and the French government seized it. It was then assigned to the Musée d’Orsay from 2000 to 2018 when it was restituted to Lévy’s heirs. (For more on this story see Antiques Trade Gazette:

This painting is a perfect example of what Pointillism can be—full of light, color and movement. Too often Pointillist paintings feel static, as if there is no air. This painting breathes. It is vibrant and energetic as the girl rushes to break the stick, the wind blowing her skirt and the smoke. It is truly one of Pissarro’s greatest masterpieces.



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