Chaumieres a Auvers, pres de Pontoise
Pastel: 23.6(h) x 28.6(w) in / 60(h) x 72.7(w) cm
Signed and dated lower right: C. Pissarro 1879
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Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas 1830 - 1903 Paris
Ref: CL 3701
Chaumières à Auvers, près de Pontoise
Signed and dated lower right: C. Pissarro . 1879
Pastel: 23 5/8 x 28 5/8 in / 60 x 72.7 cm
Frame size: 35 x 39 ½ in / 88.9 x 100.3 cm
Dr Georges Viau (1855-1939), Paris
Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, 4th March 1907, lot 89
Durand-Ruel, Paris, acquired at the above sale and sold on 11th February 1966
Sam Salz Inc., New York
Ronne Wohl (d.2000) and Joseph S Wohl (d.1979);
Sotheby’s New York, 9th November 2000, lot 2;
Richard Green, London, 2000;
private collection, USA
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Exposition de l’oeuvre de Camille Pissarro, 1904, no.134
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Tableaux, pastels et gouaches par Camille Pissarro, 1921, no.58
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Tableaux par Camille Pissarro, 1928, no.101
Paris, Musée de l’Orangerie, Exposition Camille Pissarro organisée a l’occasion du centenaire de la naissance de l’artiste, 1930, no.50
Paris, Galerie AJ Seligman, Le Pastel français de XVIIe siècle a nos jours, 1933, no.98
Paris, Galerie Marcel Bernheim, Premières époques de C Pissarro, 1936, no.33
Paris, Palais National des Arts, Exposition Universelle, Les Chefs-d’oeuvre d’art Français, 1937, no.703
Paris, Musee de l’Orangerie, Van Gogh et ses amis: les peintres de Auvers-sur-Oise, 1954-55, no.13
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Exposition Camille Pissarro, 1956, no.40
Roslyn Harbour, New York, Nassau County Museum of Art, The Long Island Collections, a Century of Art, 1880-1980, 1982, no.1
Beaux-Arts, Paris, April 1928, illus.
Ludovic-Rodo Pissarro and Lionello Venturi, Camille Pissarro: son art, son oeuvre, vol I, Paris 1939, p.293, no.1544; vol II, no.1544, pl. 297
Joachim Pissarro, Camille Pissarro, New York and London 1993, pp.115; 130-1, fig. 135, illus. in colour
This pastel, one of the largest and most detailed of Pissarro’s career, was made at the height of his association with Impressionism. An idealist, but also a practical man, he participated in all eight of the Impressionist exhibitions and ‘created the legal structure of the Impressionist group by establishing the only legal document defining its purpose and aim’.
This work depicts Auvers, a village adjacent to Pontoise, where Pissarro and his family lived from 1872 to 1882, the longest period that they had so far sojourned in one place. Pontoise, a town of several thousand inhabitants twenty-five miles northwest of Paris, had the advantage of being cheaper than the capital but with good communications into Paris by train. Set on the river Oise, it was an inland port and centre for vegetables and poultry supplies raised on the surrounding rich agricultural land. The area had been popular with artists of an earlier generation: Corot lived in Pontoise, Daubigny moored his boat-studio in Auvers and Daumier had lived in the nearby village of Valmondois. It provided Pissarro with a generous variety of subjects, from the river and old town, the rhythms of agricultural life and the juxtaposition of the bucolic and the industrial with the factory chimneys that increasingly pierced the skyline.
Auvers was ‘a small, elongated village right next to Pontoise, squeezed between the river Oise and the high chalk cliffs which run alongside it’, seen to the right of the pastel. There is no sense of modern life encroaching on this peaceful view, as there is in the smoking factory chimney of Riverbanks in Pontoise, 1872 (private collection). The ancient, thatch-roofed cottages are embowered in the lush green landscape, with fluffy clouds scudding through the blue sky overhead. Pissarro employs the pastel strokes to convey energy to the scene, a sense of pulsating light. The diagonal strokes of the steep landscape harmonize with the diagonals depicting the pale gold of the sunlit thatch. The path which leads the eye into the landscape is composed of bold, luscious pastel with touches of ice-blue, ochre and pink among the green and yellow. The path bends tantalizingly out of view at the point where a couple chat companionably. Pissarro was never patronizing about the peasants in his paintings: he saw them as full of dignity, in harmony with nature.
The huge variety of tones of green in this work, the subtle shift between them and the vibrant, hatched surface suggest that Pissarro may have been influenced by Paul Cézanne (1839-1906). Generous and open-minded, Pissarro was never afraid to learn lessons from younger artists: he later absorbed lessons from the Pointillism of Georges Seurat (1859-1891). Cézanne had met Pissarro at the Académie Suisse in 1861; in 1872 he stayed in Pontoise with the Pissarros, moving with his wife and son to Auvers later that year. However, the influence was never a one-way street. Pissarro and Cézanne sparked off each other, sometimes painting side-by-side. ‘My goodness, we were always together!’, Pissarro wrote in a letter of 1895, ‘but what is certain is that each of us kept the only thing that matters, “one’s own sensation” ’. Chaumières à Auvers, près de Pontoise shows Pissarro at his most honest, individual and full of joy.
Note on the provenance
The first owner of this pastel was the distinguished dentist Dr Georges Viau (1855-1939), who built up a large collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works, including paintings by Degas, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cézanne and Gauguin. He was a patron of Edouard Vuillard, who portrayed Le Docteur Georges Viau dans son cabinet dentaire, 1914 (Musée d’Orsay, Paris).
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 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.
 Joachim Pissarro, Camille Pissarro, New York and London 1993, p.90. See Chapter 5, ‘Pontoise and Auvers 1872-82: Impressionism’, pp.90-135.
 Pissarro 1993, op. cit., p.88.
 Oil on canvas: 13 ½ x 35 7/8 in / 35 x 91 cm.
 Quoted in Pissarro 1993, ibid., p.91.
 Today part of the US Virgin Islands.