Lucien Pissarro

East Hill and Old Town, Hastings

Oil on canvas: 17(h) x 21(w) in /

43.2(h) x 53.3(w) cm

Signed with monogram and dated lower right: LP 1918; inscribed on the reverse of the stretcher: To Robert Solomon from LP

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BV 152

 

LUCIEN PISSARRO

Paris 1863 – 1944 Hewood, Somerset

 

East Hill and Old Town, Hastings

 

Signed with monogram and dated lower right: LP 1918;

inscribed on the reverse of the stretcher: To Robert Solomon from LP

Oil on canvas: 17 x 21 in / 43.2 x 53.3 cm

Frame size: 23 x 27 in / 58.4 x 68.6 cm

 

Painted in June 1918

 

Provenance:

Robert Solomon, a gift from the artist in 1924

Sotheby’s London, 26th April 1972, lot 42

Houston Gallery, Wells, Somerset;

private collection, Salisbury, UK

 

Exhibited:

London, Goupil Gallery, 1920, no.105

London, Hampstead Art Gallery, 1920, no.37

 

Literature:

Burlington Magazine, April 1972, p.114, illus. p.xl

Anne Thorold, A Catalogue of the Oil Paintings of Lucien Pissarro, London 1983, pp.20; 136-7, no.278, illus.; 236

 

 

Lucien was the eldest son of Camille Pissarro. In 1890 he settled in England, marrying an English artist, Esther Bensusan. Lucien was the link between French Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism and English artists such as Walter Sickert and Spencer Gore.

 

Lucien Pissarro lived in Hastings at 2 High Wickham on East Hill[1] from 11th January to 10th July 1918 and made ten oil paintings while there, working en plein air, usually in the mornings for better light. East Hill and Old Town, Hastings, painted in June, looks from the western side of the town across the buildings of the Old Town to the grassy slopes of East Hill, surmounted by the castle-like entrance to the funicular railway, built in 1902. In the distance, a band of palest blue takes the eye to where the sea meets the shimmering sky. When he first arrived in Hastings, Lucien was constrained to avoid sea views by the terms of his painting permit: the authorities were worried that German spies in the guise of artists would learn secrets about the defence of this important coastal area. Pissarro, a British citizen with a French accent, was an object of suspicion to the townsfolk and on one occasion, as he records in his diary for 18th March, was stoned as he sat painting All Saints’ Church[2].

 

Like his father in his Eragny paintings, Lucien is interested in the relationship between human habitation and nature, with the warm, red brick houses nestling in the folds of the downs and among the emerald foliage of high summer. David Fraser Jenkins, writing about All Saints’ Church: sun and mist (Tate Britain), comments on Lucien’s interest in ‘areas that are half town and half country’, a theme shared by Camden Town School artists such as Spencer Gore[3].

 

Short, richly impasted, staccato strokes evoke the varied hues and changing textures of the landscape. By 1918 Lucien Pissarro had long since moved away from the strict adherence to Neo-Impressionism, influenced by Seurat, that had captivated both him and his father in the mid-1880s. In 1942 he wrote to his wife’s nephew, John Bensusan-Butt, ‘You are right as to painting: what must be rendered is not the object, but the expression of feeling caused by the object’[4]. Lucien expressed this engagement with the landscape through very subtle colouring, perfect for the subdued radiance of English coastal light, and by a strength and austerity of composition that led the contemporary critic Frank Rutter to comment that he ‘is equally distinguished as a colourist among designers and as a designer among colourists’[5]. East Hill and Old Town, Hastings may derive from the Impressionist tradition, but it is also a truly Modern British landscape.

 

This painting was given by Lucien Pissarro to Robert Solomon, a keen collector of his work who received several gifts of paintings from the artist and who owned works by David Bomberg, among others.

 

 


LUCIEN PISSARRO

Paris 1863 – 1944 Hewood, Somerset

 

 

Lucien Pissarro was the eldest son and pupil of Camille Pissarro. He grew up among the Impressionists, and frequent visitors to the family home included Monet, Cézanne and Guillaumin. Although he attempted a career in business, he quickly abandoned it and after spending the year 1883 studying in England, which he had already visited with his family during the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, he returned to Eragny and studied wood-engraving under August Lepère.

 

In 1885, both Camille and Lucien were introduced to Georges Seurat and his disciple Signac in Paris, and both were drawn towards Neo-Impressionism. All four artists’ work was shown together in a separate room at the eighth and last Impressionist show in 1886 (Lucien Pissarro’s entry consisted of woodcuts and watercolours). Pissarro exhibited with the Salon des Indépendants between 1886 and 1894. During this period he experimented with Divisionism; however, he continued to produce woodcut illustrations, prints and lithographs, which formed the major part of his work until 1900.

 

By then he was living permanently in England and he married a British woman, Esther Bensusan (1870-1951), with whom he formed the Eragny Press which produced thirty books before it was forced to close with the onset of the Great War. Pissarro, who had begun painting again after the turn of the century, began exhibiting with the New English Art Club in 1904, joined the Fitzroy Street Group in 1913 and the Monarro Group in 1919. Lucien Pissarro promoted Impressionist theories to artists such as Sickert, Spencer Gore and his close friend James Bolivar Manson with whom he went on painting expeditions and corresponded over many years. He made an important contribution in bringing a new impetus to British painting in the early years of the twentieth century.

[1] Today commemorated by a blue plaque.

[2] The Diary is in the Pissarro Collection at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Quoted in David Fraser Jenkins’s essay on Lucien Pissarro, All Saints’ Church, Hastings: sun and mist, 1918, in the Tate online catalogue, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/camden-town-group.lucien-pissarro

[3] Fraser Jenkins, op. cit.

[4] Letter of 10th April 1942, translated from the French and quoted in Bensusan-Butt’s Introduction to Thorold, Lucien Pissarro, op. cit., p.xvi.

[5] Quoted by Christopher Lloyd in the Preface to Thorold, ibid., p.ix.

Modern BritishLucien Pissarro