The Rue de l'Hermitage, Pontoise


Camille Pissarro ( French, 1830 - 1903 )

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General Description

This previously unpublished watercolor is unique in Pissarro's career, as it is the only watercolor depicting the rue de l'Hermitage, on which Pissarro lived with his family throughout much of the 1970s. Pissarro painted the street seven times, and one pencil drawing also survives. Neither the drawing nor the watercolor relates in any direct way to a painting, clearly indicating that for Pissarro in the early and mid-1870s each work of art was made independently, rather than in the traditional hierarchy of drawing, watercolor, oil sketch, and "finished" painting. Stylistic evidence suggests that this watercolor was made in the early or mid-1870s, when Pissarro concentrated on street scenes with balanced architectural masses. The interplay of red, green, and blue and the contrast of large areas of white and dark give the work a visual strength that belies its small size. It was made in a medium that Pissarro used throughout his life but that, curiously, was without a particularly distinguished history in French art. Watercolor is considered today, as it was in the 19th century, a quintessentially English medium, whose greatest single adherent was Turner. Pissarro had been able to study English watercolors on several occasions by 1873-1875, when he made this study of the rue de l'Hermitage. When we look at this masterful watercolor and think about the importance of the medium to Pissarro's great pupil and colleague, Paul Cézanne, with whom he was working when he completed this sheet, it is easier to give back to the medium its French history. The pencil initials at the lower right indicate that Pissarro himself considered this sheet to be "finished." "Impressionist Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture from the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection," page 55