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Camille Pissarro
Le Quai de Pothuis a Pontoise

1876

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About

A painting by Camille Pissarro. "Le Quai de Pothuis a Pontoise" is an impressionist painting, oil on canvas in a soft palette of greens and blues by French artist Camille Pissarro. The artwork is signed and dated in the lower left, "C. Pissarro 1876". After taking refuge in England during the Franco-Prussian war and Paris Commune of 1870-71, Camille Pissarro returned to settle at his former residence at Pontoise. He was surprised that the landscape had been substantially altered. Just across from the Hermitage quarter where he had settled, a large factory with its smoke piling skyward from the distillation of beets had been built at Chalon et Cie. It proved to be a solitary modern formal element he tackled with considerable energy in 1873. Direct representations of industry were uncommon, so that not surprisingly, they are in stark with Monet’s contemporaneous work at Argenteuil, where the younger painter devoted his efforts to painting sunshine and parasols, sailboats and well-appointed bourgeois strolling along promenades. Le Quai de Pothuis a Pontoise is one of four closely related views (Pissarro and Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, nos. 454-458) painted in 1876. The factories here are not a jarring presence and do not reshape the landscape. It is clear that signs of industry interested him not as statements of vile or ugly encroachment, but as substantive facts worth commitment to paper, board or canvas. On the other hand, given his devotion to Millet and peasantry, these canvases advance a fuller appreciation of his commensurate preoccupation with the common laborer. Yet to a contemporary eye, Le Quai de Pothuis a Pontoise seems far less seductive as a political statement than one that seeks to adopt the integration of modern forms into the bucolic landscape. Le Quai de Pothuis a Pontoise was painted from the left bank of the Oise looking upstream from the l’Hermitage quarter near his residence and wife and growing family. Pissarro seldom sacrificed compositional considerations in a headlong quest for color effects, but it is important to remember Le Quai de Pothuis a Pontoise was painted in 1876 — the year of the second Impressionist exhibition and at a time when the painters displayed a growing interest in light, color and atmosphere. With those considerations, Le Quai de Pothuis a Pontoise is a consummate example of Pissarro’s knack for creating highly unified studies; here, using to great advantage the strong diagonal lines of the quay attenuated by the verticality of smokestacks and the barge mast that add rhythm and structure to a composition finely balanced within the parlance of Impressionism at this decisive stage of its development. Provenance: Sale, Christie's, Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale Including Property from the Estate of Edgar M. Bronfman, 6 May 2014 Private Collection, California Exhibition: London, Strafford Gallery, Pictures by Camille Pissarro, October 1911, no. 30. (possibly) London, The Doré Galleries, Post-Impressionist and Futurist Exhibition, 1913, no. 6. London, National Gallery, Oil Paintings by Camille Pissarro, June-October 1931, no. 34. Birmingham, City Museum and Art Gallery, Oil Paintings by Camille Pissarro, October-November 1931, no. 28. Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Oil Paintings by Camille Pissarro, November-December 1931, no. 14. Stockport, War Memorial Buildings and Sheffield, Mappin Art Gallery, Paintings by Camille Pissarro, January-March 1932, no. 13. Bootle Museum, Oil Paintings by Camille Pissarro, April-May 1932, no. 12. Leeds City Art Gallery, Paintings by Camille Pissarro, July 1932, no. 31. Northampton, Art Gallery; Blackpool, Grundy Art Gallery and Rochdale Corporation Art Gallery, Paintings by Camille Pissarro, September-November 1932, no. 26. London, The Stafford Gallery, Constable, Bonington, C. Pissarro, May-June 1939, no. 18. The Art Institute of Chicago, Treasures of Chicago Collectors, April-May 1961. Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 100 European Paintings and Drawings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Leigh B. Block, May-June 1967 and February-April 1968, no. 4 (illustrated). Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Paintings from a Private Collection, 1978 (titled Riverbank at Pontoise). Akashi, Cultural Center; Nara Sogo Museum of Art; Fukuoka Prefectural Museum of Art and Kanagawa, Sogo Museum of Art, Les Impressionnistes et l'art moderne: de Monet à Picasso, October 1997-April 1998, no. 17. Fort Lauderdale, Museum of Art, Impressionism to the Present: Camille Pissarro and His Descendants, January-April 2000, p. 53, no. 22 (illustrated in color). Literature: Stockport Express, 7 January 1932. The Rochdale Observer, 29 October 1932. L.R. Pissarro and L. Venturi, Camille Pissarro, son art--son oeuvre, Paris, 1939, vol. I, p. 130, no. 356 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 71). R.R. Brettell, Pissarro and Pontoise: The Painter in a Landscape, New Haven, 1990, pp. 93-95 (illustrated, p. 95, fig. 86). J. Pissarro and C. Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro: Catalogue critique des peintures, Paris, 2005, vol. II, p. 329, no. 456 (illustrated in color).

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About the Artist

Camille Pissarro

Camille Pissarro was one of the most influential members of the French Impressionist movement and the only artist to participate in all eight Impressionist exhibitions. Born in July of 1830 on the island of Saint Thomas in the Danish West Indies, Camille was the son of Frédéric and Rachel Pissarro. At the age of 12, he went to school in Paris, where he displayed a penchant for drawing. He returned again to Paris in 1855, having convinced his parents to allow him to pursue a career as an artist rather than work in the family import/export business. Camille studied at the Académie Suisse alongside Claude Monet, and, during this time, he met Paul Cézanne, Édouard Manet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. In 1869, Camille settled in Louveciennes. The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 prompted him to move to England, and, with Monet, Camille painted a series of landscapes around Norwood and Crystal Palace, whilst studying English landscape painting in the museums. Upon returning a year later at the end of the War to Louveciennes, Camille discovered that only 40 of his 1,500 paintings — almost 20 years’ work — remained undamaged. Camille settled in Pontoise in the summer of 1871, remaining there and gathering a close circle of friends around him for the next 10 years. He reestablished relationships with Cézanne, Manet, Monet, Renoir and Edgar Degas, expressing his desire to create an alternative to the Salon, so that their group could display their own unique styles. Camille married Julie Vellay, with whom he would have seven children. Cézanne repeatedly came to stay with them, and, under Camille’s influence, he learned to study nature more patiently, even copying one of Camille’s landscapes in order to learn his teacher’s technique. The first Impressionist group exhibition, initiated by Monet in 1874, earned the Impressionists much criticism for their art. While mainly interested in landscape, Camille introduced people — generally, peasants going about their rural occupations — and animals into his works, and they often became the focal point of the composition. It was this unsentimental and realistic approach, with the complete absence of any pretense, which seemed to stop his work from finding appreciation in the general public. One of the few collectors who did show interest in Camille’s work was a bank employee named Paul Gauguin, who, after acquiring a small collection of Impressionist works, turned to Camille for advice on becoming a painter himself. For several years, Gauguin closely followed his mentor, and, although their friendship was fraught with disagreement and misunderstandings, Gauguin still wrote shortly before Camille’s death in 1906: “He was one of my masters, and I do not deny him.” In the 1880s, Camille moved from Pontoise to nearby Osny, before Eragny, a small village much further from Paris. At a time when he was dissatisfied with his work, in 1885, Camille met both Paul Signac and Georges Seurat. He was fascinated by their efforts to replace the intuitive perceptive approach of the Impressionists with a “Divisionist” method, or scientific study of nature’s phenomena based on optical laws. Despite having reached his mid-50s, Camille did not hesitate to follow the two young innovators. The following year, he passed on this new concept to Vincent Van Gogh, who had just arrived in Paris and was keen to learn of the most recent developments in art. However, after a few years, Camille felt restricted by Seurat’s theories and returned to his more spontaneous technique whilst retaining the lightness and purity of colour acquired during his Divisionist phase. In the last years of his life, Camille divided his time between Paris, Rouen, Le Havre and Eragny, painting several series of different aspects of these cities, with varying light and weather effects. Many of these paintings are considered amongst his best and make for an apt finale to his long and prodigious career. When Camille Pissarro died in the autumn of 1903, he had finally started to gain public recognition. Today his work can be found in many of the most important museums and collections throughout the world. (Biography provided by Stern Pissarro Gallery)
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