Camille Pissarro - Dans le pré en automne à Eragny

Camille Pissarro

Dans le pré en automne à Eragny

Oil on canvas: 25.5(h) x 31.9(w) in /

64.8(h) x 81(w) cm

Signed and dated lower right: C. Pissarro. 1901; titled on the stretcher: Le Pré en automne à Eragny

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BV 214

CAMILLE PISSARRO

Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas 1830 – 1903 Paris

Dans le pré en automne à Eragny

Signed and dated lower right: C. Pissarro. 1901; titled on the stretcher: Le Pré en automne à Eragny

Oil on canvas: 25 ½ x 31 7/8 in / 64.8 x 81 cm

Frame size:  35 x 41 in / 88.9 x 104.1 cm

In a Louis XIV style carved and gilded frame

Provenance:

Bought by Bernheim-Jeune from the artist in late 1901;

sold by Bernheim-Jeune to Georges Kellner, Paris;

sold by his daughter Mme Kellner to Maurice Ségoura circa 1984;

from whom bought by a private collector, Europe;

by descent

Literature:

J Bailly-Herzberg, Correspondence de Camille Pissarro, Paris 1980-91, vol. V, no.1877; p.219, no.5

J Pissarro and C Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro, Catalogue critique des peintures, Paris 2005, vol. III, p.857, no.1398, illus. in colour

For most of his mature career, Pissarro divided his time between Paris – necessary for meeting his dealer, catching up with fellow artists and going to exhibitions – his home at Eragny, and travel in search of new motifs. In spring 1901 he stayed with his artist son Georges at Moret-sur-Loing, long the home and inspiration of Alfred Sisley (1839-1899). From July to September he was painting in Dieppe, entranced by the medieval church and bustling market. Galvanised by these new scenes, he worked happily at Eragny between trips, taking deep pleasure in the endlessly changing landscape of his own serene fields in the shallow valley.

This painting is a fruit of Pissarro’s autumn stay at Eragny, which lasted from 28th September to 31st October. He wrote to his dealer Bernheim-Jeune: ‘There are no [blossoms] in autumn, the trees you see in the painting are decked with dead leaves which burst on the eye in the sunlight like bunches of flowers. Autumn at this time of year has far more flowers than spring, which has only pink and white blossoms. There is a garden in the meadow, which is left fallow, hence the few dahlias growing untended amid the tall stalks gleaming in the light. In short, everything is but an appearance in nature. The trick is to see this, or rather to sense it.’[1]

The quietly monumental Dans le pré en automne à Eragny both sees and senses the glory of the October landscape. It is painted with extraordinary vigour and inventiveness, justifying the comments of L’Art Français critic Antonin Proust when reviewing Pissarro’s one-man show at Durand-Ruel early in 1901. He wrote that the artist’s ‘brush grows brighter by the day in contact with nature….He is currently at the height of his powers.’[2]

Dans le pré is richly impasted, with the fruit tree in the central middle distance, thick with curling leaves, a tangle of ochres and beige-pinks defined by deep green shadows. The three peasants in the foreground are painted with dazzling freedom, constructed from skeins of colour jostling from a heavily-laden brush, their faces and limbs quick dabs of tawny pink, but their body language clear. Most of Pissarro’s landscapes have a human presence, an acknowledgment that this is nature tamed and made productive by man.

Underpinning the subtly varied brushwork is a strong sense of design based on interlocking diagonals. Pissarro describes the changing nature of the terrain, from the ‘fallow garden’ in the foreground, with its cheerful dabs of red and white dahlias, to the brilliant green of the middle ground, grass renewed by the autumn rains. The spreading branches of the slender, half-denuded tree in the foreground mitigate the severity of the diagonals of land and hedgerow. A distant patch of paler colour, behind and to the left of the peasant man, suggests a shaft of sunlight and moves the eye far into the distance. Pissarro’s landscapes, even when they have an obscured horizon, always have a sense of space, of the countryside rolling on and on beyond his treasured personal pastures.

Note on the provenance

This painting was acquired from Pissarro by Bernheim-Jeune in late 1901. Although he regarded Paul Durand-Ruel, champion of the Impressionists, as his regular dealer, he also placed paintings with others, much to the annoyance of Durand-Ruel. Bernheim-Jeune sold Dans le pré to Georges Kellner of the famous coachbuilding firm of G Kellner & Ses Fils. Founded in 1861 to make horse-drawn carriages, the firm was quick to grasp the opportunities of Louis Renault’s development of the automobile in 1898. From 1903 they were leaders in the supply of car bodies for the luxury market, providing chassis for Hispano-Suiza, Bugatti and Rolls-Royce, among others. Among their clients was the Tsar of Russia.

A letter from Pissarro to Georges Kellner, expressing his pleasure that Dans le pré had entered his collection, disappeared from the family home in Bougival during the Nazi Occupation in 1940[3]. Jacques Kellner, grandson of the founder Georges, had inherited the company in 1931. In 1942 he was shot by the Nazis as part of the Résistance unit Phill, which had channelled vital information to the Allies, including critical intelligence about the development of the Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe jet fighter. Kellner et Cie ceased with Jacques[4].

CAMILLE PISSARRO

Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas 1830 – 1903 Paris

Camille Pissarro was perhaps the greatest propagandist and the most constant member of the Impressionists and the only one to participate in all eight of their exhibitions. Born in 1830 in the Danish colony of Saint Thomas[5] in the West Indies, of Sephardic Jewish parentage, he went to school in Paris and then worked in his father’s business for five years. Ill-suited to being a merchant, Pissarro decided to become a painter, studying at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and the informal Académie Suisse. He was considerably influenced and encouraged by Corot and to a lesser extent by Courbet.

During the 1860s Pissarro exhibited at the official Salons and in 1863 at the Salon des Refusés. He increasingly associated himself with the Impressionists, especially Monet and Renoir, and with the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war in 1870 fled to London, where Durand-Ruel became his principal patron and dealer.

After the war, Pissarro returned to France and settled at Pontoise, spending much time with Cézanne, whom he directed towards Impressionism. In 1884 he moved to Eragny. During the 1890s the meadows at Eragny-sur-Epte, looking across to the village of Bazincourt, became one of Pissarro’s principal subjects, painted at different times of the day and year.

In 1885 Pissarro came into contact with Seurat and Signac and for a brief period experimented with Neo-Impressionism. The rigidity of this technique, however, proved too restrictive and he returned to the freedom and spontaneity of Impressionism. From 1893 Pissarro embarked upon a series of Parisian themes, such as the Gare St Lazare and the Grands Boulevards. He continued to spend the summers at Eragny, where he painted the landscape in his most poetic Post-Impressionist idiom. Pissarro died in Paris in 1903.

[1] Unpublished letter of 20th November 1901, private collection, Paris; quoted in Pissarro and Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, op. cit., vol. III, p.857.

[2] Quoted in ibid., vol. I, p.299.

[3] See photocopy of a letter from G Paget Kellner, grandchild of Georges Kellner.

[4] Peter Larsen and Ben Erickson, The Kellner Affair, 2018.

[5] Today part of the US Virgin Islands.

ImpressionistCamille Pissarro