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The market scenes of Camille Pissarro


A figure study by Camille Pissarro recently acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria is not only the first drawing by this major draughtsman of the second half of the 19th century to enter the collection, but also an important addition to the artist’s graphic oeuvre (fig. 1).1 Inv. P22/1983. Black chalk with pastel. 310:235 mm. Stamped on left C.P. (F. Lugt, Les marques de collections de dessins et d’estampes. Supplément, The Hague, 1956, pp. 89–90, no. 613a). From the collection of Paul-Emile Pissarro (1884–1972), the artist’s fifth son who inherited the drawing at the partage following Camille Pissarro’s death in 1903. Exhibited: South Yarra, Victoria, Tolarno Galleries, Camille Pissarro 1830–1903, July 1983, p. 27 (caption reversed with that of drawing illustrated at p. 16). Usually when writing about Pissarro it is customary to stress his achievements as a landscape painter, but very often such an emphasis ignores the fact that he was frequently preoccupied by figure compositions. Chronologically, this concern for the human figure becomes evident in Pissarro’s work at the beginning of the 1880s and emerges out of that short period at the end of the 1870s now known as the Crisis of Impressionism.2 This particular phase in the history of Impressionism was the subject of an important exhibition organised by J. Isaacson, The Crisis of Impressionism 1878–1882, held at The University of Michigan Museum of Art, 2 November 1979–6 January 1980. Pissarro, who was always a severely self-disciplined painter, had become dissatisfied with his landscapes judging them to be confused and disparate both in style and composition. To help resolve this problem he determined to promote the role of the human figure in his paintings so that greater stress is placed upon a human activity while the landscape background becomes more simplified and more restricted. In such pictures, therefore, Pissarro was to some extent rejecting the type of composition favoured by Impressionist artists during the early 1870s. At that time in Pissarro’s works the figures only formed an integral part of a panoramic landscape (fig. 2)3 L.-R. Pissarro & L. Venturi, Camille Pissarro, son art – son oeuvre, Paris, 1939 (= P&V), no. 222. This is just one of innumerable examples dating from the 1870s., but during the early 1880s they dominate the foreground. Pissarro’s rethinking of his compositional procedures was one of the most exciting developments in late 19th century French painting, as can be seen in a large tempera entitled La moisson included in the seventh Impressionist exhibition of 1882 (fig. 3).4 P&V no. 1358.

The positioning of the female harvester in the lower left corner, seen from an oblique angle in three-quarters length against the field while at the same time shown moving towards the viewer, partakes of the compositional principles devised by Edgar Degas in his numerous depictions of ballet dancers. It is Gauguin, however, who realised its full potential.5 A point made by R. Brettell in the introductory essay to the exhibition catalogue, Camille Pissarro 1830–1903, 30 October 1980–9 August 1981, London, Hayward Gallery; Paris, Grand Palais; Boston, Museum of Fine Arts (= Pissarro 1980-1), p. 29. La moisson is by no means the only example of such experiments in Pissarro’s work and the same principles can be traced in any number of paintings dating from after 1880.6 They are apparent in several very fine paintings of 1881–82 such as P&V nos 534, 540, 548, 565 and 567. In addition, many of the component parts of these compositions were essayed in the artist’s drawings, of which well over a thousand sheets are known to exist. It is, of course, no coincidence that compositions like La moisson were carefully prepared in a series of drawings that concentrates mainly upon the poses of the figures7 For a discussion of the full preparatory process for La moisson see R. Brettell & C. Lloyd, A Catalogue of the Drawings by Camille Pissarro in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1980, pp. 43–6., and it is therefore during the early 1880s that Pissarro emerges as one of the outstanding draughtsmen of the human figure. Like Degas and Cézanne, he was a prolific draughtsman throughout his life, but it was only during the 1880s and 1890s that Pissarro produced some of his most memorable figure studies into which category the sheet in Melbourne undoubtedly falls. The type and style of the drawing are easily recognisable as those of the first half of the 1880s. The figure is seen from an unusual angle; there is an emphasis upon flowing curvilinear contours with heavily accented parts such as where the left arm joins the shoulder thereby serving to anchor the figure in space and almost to pin her to the sheet itself; there are also sudden bursts of shading across more open areas like the back, or again in the shadows. Black chalk or charcoal were the favoured media for all these drawings because of the broad range of tone and texture that could be obtained with them. The shifting quality of light moving across open surfaces could be caught by the deft use of chalk or charcoal as on the back of the figure in the present drawing, just as the deposit caused by the interaction of the medium on the paper, which is detectable here in the skirt, suggests the very texture of the cloth itself. Colour is used sparingly, but effectively, in these drawings and never really dominates the basic medium selected for the drawing, so that its role is essentially a system of descriptive highlighting. Several of these distinguished sheets are related to the market scenes that Pissarro also began to depict during the early 1880s. Indeed, when taken as a group Pissarro’s market scenes assume considerable importance revealing not only his new found interest in the human figure, but also reflecting something of his political opinions and social attitudes. 

Le marché à la volaille, Gisors: the evolution of the composition 

The drawing now in Melbourne was made in relation to the figure in the centre foreground of the large tempera painting of the poultry market in Gisors. The painting (fig. 4), signed and dated 1885, is now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, having once belonged to Claude Monet.8 Inv.. 48.588. P&V no. 1400, which was exhibited Pissarro 1980–1, no. 61. Le marché à la volaille, Gisors is unusual, although not unique, amongst Pissarro’s market compositions for its large square format and its gestation seems to have involved the artist in certain complications. In fact, it appears that the composition is an amalgamation of two separate market scenes. The left half was clearly conceived as an independent work the basis of which is preserved in an elaborate drawing that was included in the Camille Pissarro exhibition of 1980–81 (fig. 5).9 Pissarro 1980–1, no. 129. Black chalk heightened with watercolour, 28 x 20.2 cm.The drawing is signed and dated 1885 and does not appear to have been developed further except in the context of the tempera in Boston. It can be seen that Pissarro has incorporated the two figures in the foreground of the drawing into the finished tempera painting. The figure drawn on the sheet in Melbourne, however, relates both to this compositional drawing and the finished tempera painting. The general pose and arrangement of the drapery remain unchanged, except for slight alterations, but the figure has been carefully integrated into the crowded composition assembled for the painting. The angle of the head and right shoulder has been slightly raised so that this stooping figure can engage the attention of her companion in the lower left corner. Details such as the coiffure and the kerchief have been elaborated, just as the basket of produce has been moved further to the left so that its contents can be more easily seen by the viewer. These are the kind of changes that very often occurred as Pissarro developed a composition. It can also be seen that a final change of mind concerning this figure occurs on the tempera painting itself, for the position of the left shoulder has again been raised thus obscuring part of the nose – a feature that appears neither in the compositional drawing nor in the Melbourne study. The artist’s usual procedure for the preparation of his paintings during the early 1880s was to make brief studies of motifs from the life in his sketchbooks, and then, having decided upon a particular composition sometimes recorded in a highly finished compositional drawing, to undertake a series of detailed studies of individual figures often from posed models. It is very likely that the sheet in Melbourne is one such study made after the composition had been settled and before the painting was begun.  The same is also true of the study in the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass. (fig. 6) relating to the figure in the lower left corner of Le marché à la volaille, Gisors.10 Inv. 1965.323. Bequest of Meta and Paul J. Sachs. Black chalk, 32.5 x 24.8 cm. 

The right half of the composition of the tempera painting is similar to a painting and a gouache both entitled Le marché de Gisors (rue Cappeville) and signed and dated 1885 (figs 7–8).11 P&V nos 690 and 1401. Present whereabouts unknown. Here the common factor is the female figure placed in the middle distance of Le marché à la volaille, Gisors standing facing right and supporting her chin with the left hand, but the setting has been completely altered. Having taken the basic elements from these two compositions the artist unites them by such features as the intertwining of the branches of the two trees and by the architecture in the background. The central figure in the foreground plays a vital part in this process, since her body relates to both halves, whereas behind her in the middle distance the eye observes a group of figures placed in a semi-circle in relation to the trees, beyond which is the general melee of the crowd. 

The setting of Le marché à la volaille, Gisors 

Geographically, Gisors lies to the north–west of Paris, on the right bank of the River Epte, approximately equidistant from Rouen and Paris. It is in Normandy and on an axis between Dieppe and Paris. Like Pontoise, where Pissarro had lived for so much of his life and which had provided many of the principal motifs of his paintings, Gisors had also been an important medieval town that had since declined in strategic and economic relevance becoming during the 19th century essentially a market town. When in the early 1880s Pissarro decided to leave Pontoise he moved first in 1882 to the nearby village of Osny, but almost immediately began to look for somewhere else to live further out in the countryside. Finally, in 1884 he moved to the village of Eragny-sur-Epte a few miles to the north of Gisors on the railway line linking Paris to Dieppe. Gisors, however, was one of the towns that Pissarro had looked at closely while searching for a new home and it is significant that he settled near it. His enthusiasm for Gisors may be compared with his appreciation of Rouen that he had first explored during an important visit to the city in 1883.12 For the significance of Rouen see C. Lloyd, ‘Camille Pissarro and Rouen’ (forthcoming in a volume of essays by various contributors provisionally entitled Camille Pissarro Studies).. Gisors had similar architectural features, albeit on a smaller scale, with a mixture of medieval and Renaissance styles. Apart from its domestic architecture, the town was dominated by two other prominent buildings: the castle, which was built by Henry II of England in the 12th century, and the church dating from the 13th to the 16th centuries. Pissarro’s enthusiasm for Gisors can be detected in a letter he wrote to his son, Lucien, on 17 February 1884:   

We didn’t look the place over when we went there together, we didn’t see the whole wooded section of the public park, the superb forests with extraordinarily irregular terrain, the ruins of the castle of La Reine Blanche. The park with great trees and towers covered with vegetation, and a view of the church spires in the distance, is superb. Old streets, three little streams, filled with picturesque motifs; and the countryside is superb, too. I hastily made some watercolours. I promised myself that I would go there to paint, for I haven’t found a satisfactory house.13 Correspondance de Camille Pissarro 1. 1865–1885, ed. J. Bailly-Herzberg, Paris, 1980, p. 285 no. 219. Translation used here from Camille Pissarro. Letters to his Son Lucien, ed. J. Rewald, 4th edn, London, 1980, pp. 56–7. A further interesting reference to Gisors in a similar vein occurs in another letter to Lucien written by Camille in August 1885: ‘You, who are an artist, ought to be able to make Esther understand that Gisors has art treasures that should delight a tourist with taste; tell her about the diversified style of the church, about the wooden doors of Jean Goujon, about the stairways, the genealogical tree, the French frescoes (rare), and the basin which I almost omitted from my list. This basin is a whole world! – and then there are the park, the carvings on the town hall, the museum with its extraordinary stuffed birds, in short you should unroll the list of attractions, and get her to decide to stay here as long as possible’ (1980 edn, p. 62). For some of the watercolours of Gisors see Brettel & Lloyd, no. 171. 

Gisors’ medieval significance both historically and architecturally is acknowledged by its inclusion in the Voyages pittoresques et romantiques dans I’ancienne France published between 1820–78.14 C. Nodier, J. Taylor & A. de Cailleux, Voyages pittoresques et romantiques dans l’ancienne France: Normandie, II, Paris, 1820, pp. 135–53, for Gisors. On the significance of the Voyages pittoresques see most recently the exhibition catalogue of B. A. Grad & T. A. Riggs, Vision of City and Country. Prints and Photographs of Nineteenth Century France, Worcester Art Museum, Mass., 1982. It is from the lithographs in the Voyages pittoresques that the appearance of Gisors at the beginning of the 19th century can be gauged. As at Pontoise, however, Pissarro subjected the town to a close examination aiming not to provide a topographical record, but to observe the activities of the local population pursuing daily tasks within such a setting. The basis of modernity in Pissarro’s work might be said to be the interaction between past and present. One of the regular institutions that he depicted both in Pontoise and Gisors was the local market. Pissarro seems to show two such markets in Gisors: the first was in all probability located in the precincts of the castle which, judging from the evidence of the letter quoted, appears to have served as a public park. As described in Baedeker’s guide to Northern France, ‘The Castle … occupies the top of the hill on which the town is built. Little of this once strong fortress now remains except its outer ramparts, which have also been converted into shady promenades, and the donjon rising on an artificial mound. The outer wall is protected by a moat and twelve round towers. The large “Tour de Prisonnier” near the donjon, contains a dungeon, the walls of which have been curiously carved with a nail by some whilom captive. On this side is also a small courtyard between a large round tower and a square tower’.15 K. Baedeker, Northern France from Belgium and the English Channel to the Loire excluding Paris and its Environs, 3rd edn, Leipzig-London, 1899, p. 47. As can be seen from the lithograph in the Voyages pittoresques (fig. 9), markets seem to have been held along the outer ramparts, or possibly, alternatively, in the extensive open space in front of the main gate of the castle. Many of Pissarro’s market scenes of Gisors include similar trees that suggest that those particular markets were held in proximity to the castle.16 P&V nos 1388, 1436, 1437, 1438. The title of P&V no. 1413 is given as Le Marché de Pontoise on the basis of a reference in a letter written by Lucien Pissarro to his father on 1 June 1887 (Letters, edn 1980, p. 114), but the similarity of the setting with P&V no. 1400 suggests very strongly that the location is really Gisors. In fact, P&V no. 1413 is in essence a reworking in a vertical format of P&V no. 1400. The reference in the letter has yet therefore to be properly explained. There is a preparatory drawing in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (Brettell & Lloyd, no. 178). By contrast, markets in Pontoise were held in the Place du Grand Martroy and the Place du Petit Martroy both near the church of S. Maclou; a third was held by the church of Notre Dame (P&V no. 188); and a fourth beneath the avenue of trees along the Boulevard des Fossés (now the Boulevard J. Jaures) (P&V nos 1346, 1365, 1402). The second market that the artist depicted in Gisors was in a modern location at the other end of the town, namely the rue Cappeville (figs 7–8).17 P&V nos 690, 1401, 1465, 1473. Chronologically, Pissarro’s market scenes in Gisors form two groups; the more spacious compositions that can be related to the more open and semi-rural areas around the castle can be dated mainly during the mid-1880s, whereas the more constricted urban scenes of the rue Cappeville belong to the 1890s. Such distinctions prompt one to examine more closely the significance of the market scene in Camille Pissarro’s work. 

Pissarro and the market

Pissarro began to depict market scenes, as opposed to the more traditional fairs, relatively late in his working life. The first such surviving work dates from 1881.18 P&V no. 1347 entitled Marche aux bles Pontoise executed in gouache, the preparatory drawing for which is in Oxford (Brettell & Lloyd, no. 127). Fairs were often the scenes of markets, but out of a total of nearly thirty renderings of the theme Pissarro only depicted three markets on such occasions.19 These are P&V nos 1372, 1387 and 1436. Examples of the traditional fairs are P&V nos 178 and 188, both of 1872, and P&V no. 449, c. 1878. It is also worth observing that only five of the market scenes were executed in oil, the artist clearly preferring tempera, gouache or pastel for such densely crowded figure compositions. As has been implied, it was the combination of the social import of the market and the compositional challenge presented by it that attracted Pissarro to the theme. It is significant that the artist rarely made a visual record of markets in Paris, preferring instead to concentrate upon the smaller local markets in places like Pontoise and Gisors.20 There are no surviving paintings of any markets in Paris, although the following drawings might be so related: London, Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, Nineteenth Century French Drawings, 15 June–15 July 1983, no. 32 reprod. traditionally entitled Le Marché St Honoré and dated 1891; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, exhibited Pissarro 1980–1, no. 132 where reference is also made to a further drawing inscribed Un coin des Halles in the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass. (inv. 1943.394). As regards this point, it must be said that it is not always easy to identify the locations of the markets depicted by Pissarro and it is significant that those referred to in this note are interiors or closed markets as opposed to the smaller open markets associated with Pontoise and Gisors. To this extent the market scenes in Pissarro’s oeuvre may be seen as part of a more general record of peasant life, which contemporary artists, like Léon Lhermitte, also portrayed but in a purely descriptive manner as part of a more self-conscious visual record of peasant life (fig. 10) which Lhermitte, for example, then distilled into drawings made for the illustrations accompanying the text to André Theuriet’s La vie rustique published in 1888. Small, almost informal, local markets in rural towns were held regularly several times a week and often on a specialised basis – each one devoted to a particular kind of produce.21 For the historical and economic background see E. Weber, Peasants into Frenchmen. The Modernisation of Rural France 1870-1914, paperback edn, London, 1979, ch. 23, pp. 407-12.By the second half of the 19th century details of these markets were recorded in official guides such as the Guide Joanne or Baedeker, thereby tending to turn the event almost into a tourist attraction. This development is sometimes reflected in those representations of markets that veer towards the picturesque in their emphasis on peasant costume and customs. Pissarro was not at all interested in these aspects of the market. For him the market was the completion of what has been termed ‘his cyclical investigation of peasant life’.22 The phrase is from Richard & Caroline Brettell, Painters and Peasants in the Nineteenth Century, Geneva, 1983, p. 132. Several of the points made in this section of the present article are taken from Richard and Caroline Brettell’s book. This ‘cyclical investigation’ was perhaps to have been most fully illustrated in the projected publication Travaux des Champs, for which see Brettell & Lloyd, pp. 66–85 and nos 322–78. Pissarro, it has also been correctly asserted, ‘conceived of the peasant not as an isolated rural labourer engaged in growing his own food, but as an integral part of a larger economic order’.23 R. & C. Brettell, loc. cit. The type of peasant depicted by Pissarro is one of the principal differences between the later artist and his important predecessor Jean-François Millet. Pissarro’s peasants are essentially small-holders. They are often shown tending their jardins potagers or transporting the produce through the landscape to sell in the local market. This is the peasant as petit commerçant, an important element in French society of the late 19th century.24 Brettell in Pissarro 1980–1, p. 29. ‘While the factories symbolise the extension of industry into the countryside, the markets represent the penetration of rural peasants into the towns’. For the historical implications of this development see Weber, op. cit., pp. 117–29 and 236–40. On one level, therefore, Pissarro’s market scenes must be seen as illustrations of socio-economic significance portraying the tensions in the life of a local community. For, markets provided Pissarro with the opportunity to observe the intermingling of different sections of society. As such the subject within Pissarro’s oeuvre has been well described as ‘a pictorial hymn to the interaction of city and country which would, for Pissarro, save the modern world from “embourgeoisement”’.25 R. & C. Brettell, op. cit., p. 133. The depictions of the markets at Pontoise and Gisors are in this sense a logical conclusion, possibly even the climax, of Pissarro’s rendition of peasant life. 

A proper understanding of the context of Pissarro’s market scenes is important for an appreciation of how he set about representing them. From the early 1880s Pissarro frequently depicted markets not limiting himself just to paint, but also using gouache, or tempera, as well as print making processes, one or two of the prints being in turn related to painted compositions.26 The two main examples are P&V nos 690 and 932 from which the prints Delteil 112 and 147 are derived (L. Delteil, Le Peintre-Graveur illustré. Pissarro, Sisley, Renoir, XVII, Paris, 1923). By the early 1880s markets had become established as one of the most popular subjects with artists, and depictions abound usually in compositions that concentrate on providing a careful record of the setting, the peasants themselves in traditional costumes, and the wares they sell. Quite apart from such contemporary depictions, however, there is also a strong tradition of market scenes in European art beginning in the late 16th century emanating from the Netherlands (fig. 11). These paintings can be seen as the antecedents of those later renderings dating from the 19th century on the basis of their emphasis either on the sellers as a form of portraiture or on the wares offered for sale as an exercise in still life.27The principal artists of this genre were Pieter Aertsen and Joachim Beuckler, for whom see generally R. Genaille, ‘D’Aertsen à Snyders: manierisme et baroque’, Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique. Bulletin XVI, 1967, pp. 79–98. Pissarro’s approach is very different and it can be directly related to his new-found interest in the human figure during the early 1880s. The artist, for instance, only gives the briefest indication of the setting to the extent that it is often difficult to identify whether a particular market is in Pontoise or Gisors. 

As a result of this decision to reduce the background to the minimum, the final format of the composition assumes a greater significance and it is interesting that Pissarro frequently had difficulty in selecting the right format. The composition of Le marché à la volaille, Gisors, as has been seen, is a case in point, but there is at least one other important example.28 This is the preparatory process for the print Delteil 112 for which see Pissarro 1980–1, nos 146 and 186–9.Pissarro usually preferred a vertical format for his market scenes and those on a horizontal format are less common.29 The main examples are P&V nos 1400 and 1433. It may be that the horizontal format was associated in his mind with the traditional representation of the market which necessitated a panoramic view and encouraged what might become in essence a narrative treatment. Yet, it is typical of Pissarro’s often paradoxical approach to subject matter that while concerned with the market as a record of the commercial interests of the peasant he deliberately eschewed a descriptive or narrative approach depending instead almost solely on the figures themselves. It was a characteristically radical solution that Pissarro adopted. For, by emphasising the figural elements in a composition he was concentrating the viewer’s eye on the social intercourse inherent within the scene. The explanation for the vertical format is that it made the figures in the foreground seem even more imposing, and interestingly, he often placed those in the background on a terrain that sloped gently downwards away from the viewer (fig. 12).30 This is most evident in the locations in Pontoise, particularly the Place du Grand Martroy, which was the subject of a photograph by Edouard Atget dating from 1902 (J. S. Szarkowski & Μ. M. Hamberg , The Work of Atget vol. I Old France, London, 1981, pp. 103 and 169–70); the Place du Petit-Martroy, which is the subject of two paintings by Pissarro’s close friend, Ludovic Piette; and the Boulevard des Fossés. The rue Cappeville in Gisors sloped as well, but, strangely, Pissarro does not seem to have taken advantage of the varied terrain of the château of Gisors. Relevant examples are P&V nos 1346 and 1402 (Boulevard des Fossés), 1361 (Place du Grand Martroy, and 1401 (rue Capeville). This, for example, was how he emphasised the scale of the figures in the foreground of Le marché à la Pontoise of 1895 (fig. 13), which he also made as a lithograph:31 The painting is P&V no. 932 (mistitled in the catalogue raisonné): the lithograph Delteil 147. the towering columnar figure of the centrally placed peasant seen from the back is a powerful image. 

The stress laid on the disposition of the figures in the immediate foreground encouraged Pissarro to develop a formula for his market compostitions. At first, as in La charcutière (fig. 14), it was the relationship of the figures to the stalls that preoccupied him as though seeking a stabilising element around which to arrange the figures,32 This was most probably the purpose of the preparatory drawing in Oxford (Brettell & Lloyd, no. 168E exhibited Pissarro 1980–1, no. 124). A similar concern, quite apart from descriptive detail, may have been the purpose of two early drawings of markets made when Pissarro was in Caracas: a sheet from a sketchbook in a private collection, Caracas (reprod. Brettell & Lloyd, p. 46, fig. 14) and a sheet once in the collection of Frederick Edwin Church preserved in his house at Olana, New York, on the Hudson River (inv. 1982.294). but later Pissarro allowed his compositions to be dominated usually by just three figures variously posed, or else grouped either sitting or standing in the foreground (fig. 13). The viewer, therefore, has to see around or over these figures to the middle distance and beyond. It was a solution that was at once radical and traditional, for very often the three figures in the foreground form a triad that brings to mind images found in classical art such as the Three Graces and even when four or more figures are involved, often paired, the statuesque quality of the poses again suggests a classical frieze.33 Allusions to the famous classical sculpture of the Three Graces are apparent in two of Pissarro’s paintings of female bathers (P&V nos 938 and 940). The composition closest to a classical relief in the poses of the figures in the foreground is P&V no. 862. The crowd of figures has been ably contrasted with Pissarro’s depictions of the peasant out in the country: Whereas Pissarro’s peasants are set amidst space and vegetation in his rural pictures they are pressed into an activated relief of overlapping bodies in the market scenes’.34 R. & C. Brettell, op. cit., p. 132. Once the eye reaches the middle distance it focuses upon the crowd attending the market and here again is another fresh development in Pissarro’s art associated with his interest in caricature.35 A preliminary discussion of this may be found in Brettell & Lloyd, pp. 36–8. Many of these figures are peasant types drawn first of all in the artist’s sketchbooks where many elements of his market compositions can be found (fig. 15).36 Fine examples are the sheets in Oxford forming part of Sketchbook XV (Brettell & Lloyd, no. 168). Caricature had always been a feature of Pissarro’s style with profiles, gestures and movement slightly exaggerated. 

The backgrounds of the market scenes are replete with peasants seen in conversation, bargaining or just passing the time of day by watching the proceedings. Furthermore, it is not just the peasants who are caricatured, but also, and perhaps more particularly, the bourgeoisie attending the market. This was the class that Pissarro frequently castigated in his letters and upon which he made a concerted attack in a series of pen and ink drawings bound into an album with the title Turpitudes sociales (1890).37 Exhibited Pissarro 1980–1, no. 142, but, in addition, see R. Thomson, ‘Camille Pissarro, “Turpitudes Sociales”, and the Universal Exhibition of 1889’, Arts Magazine 56, 1982, pp. 82–8. In the market scenes members of the bourgeoisie mix with peasants usually somewhere in the background and it is just this interaction between classes, and even between the social divisions within peasant society itself so subtly but effectively expressed, that is one of the most challenging themes explored by the artist in this series of images (fig. 16).38 Caricature and class distinctions are also combined in the prints and drawings, or, for example, in the etching (Delteil 97) reproduced here (fig. 17), or Brettell & Lloyd, no. 214. 

Pissarro’s representations of markets, therefore, reveal a surprising number of facets of his art, They are, first of all, the most significant figure compositions in the whole of his extensive oeuvre and the subject matter itself brought to the surface the social and political tensions that are evident in his correspondence and underlie much of his work. The concentration on the human figure was not a totally new development, but it is a fresh emphasis and in order to achieve such powerful compositions as Le marché à la volaille, Gisors (fig. 4) or Le marché à Pontoise (fig. 13) Pissarro undertook further study of the human figure. This concern can be clearly seen in the number of figure studies, some of them large in scale and of outstanding quality, undertaken during the early 1880s. The drawing that has recently been acquired for the National Gallery of Victoria is a pertinent and beautiful example of this important moment in Pissarro’s development.          

Christopher Lloyd, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (in 1985). 

Notes

 

1     Inv. P22/1983. Black chalk with pastel. 310:235 mm. Stamped on left C.P. (F. Lugt,

Les marques de collections de dessins et d’estampes. Supplément, The Hague,

1956, pp. 89–90, no. 613a). From the collection of Paul-Emile Pissarro (1884–1972),

the artist’s fifth son who inherited the drawing at the partage following Camille

Pissarro’s death in 1903. Exhibited: South Yarra, Victoria, Tolarno Galleries, Camille

Pissarro 1830–1903, July 1983, p. 27 (caption reversed with that of drawing illustrated

at p. 16).

2     This particular phase in the history of Impressionism was the subject of an important exhibition organised by J. Isaacson, The Crisis of Impressionism 1878–1882, held at The University of Michigan Museum of Art, 2 November 1979–6 January 1980.

3 L.-R. Pissarro & L. Venturi, Camille Pissarro, son art – son oeuvre, Paris, 1939

(= P&V), no. 222. This is just one of innumerable examples dating from the 1870s.

4     P&V no. 1358.

5     A point made by R. Brettell in the introductory essay to the exhibition catalogue,

Camille Pissarro 1830–1903, 30 October 1980–9 August 1981, London, Hayward

Gallery; Paris, Grand Palais; Boston, Museum of Fine Arts (= Pissarro 1980-1), p. 29.

6     They are apparent in several very fine paintings of 1881–82 such as P&V nos 534,

540, 548, 565 and 567.

7     For a discussion of the full preparatory process for La moisson see R. Brettell &

C. Lloyd, A Catalogue of the Drawings by Camille Pissarro in the Ashmolean

Museum, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1980, pp. 43–6.

8     Inv.. 48.588. P&V no. 1400, which was exhibited Pissarro 1980–1, no. 61.

9     Pissarro 1980–1, no. 129. Black chalk heightened with watercolour, 28 x 20.2 cm.

10     Inv. 1965.323. Bequest of Meta and Paul J. Sachs. Black chalk, 32.5 x 24.8 cm.

11     P&V nos 690 and 1401. Present whereabouts unknown.

12     For the significance of Rouen see C. Lloyd, ‘Camille Pissarro and Rouen’

(forthcoming in a volume of essays by various contributors provisionally entitled

Camille Pissarro Studies).

13     Correspondance de Camille Pissarro 1. 1865–1885, ed. J. Bailly-Herzberg, Paris,

1980, p. 285 no. 219. Translation used here from Camille Pissarro. Letters to his Son

Lucien, ed. J. Rewald, 4th edn, London, 1980, pp. 56–7. A further interesting reference to Gisors in a similar vein occurs in another letter to Lucien written by Camille in August 1885: ‘You, who are an artist, ought to be able to make Esther understand that Gisors has art treasures that should delight a tourist with taste; tell her about the diversified style of the church, about the wooden doors of Jean Goujon, about the stairways, the genealogical tree, the French frescoes (rare), and the basin which I almost omitted from my list. This basin is a whole world! – and then there are the park, the carvings on the town hall, the museum with its extraordinary stuffed birds, in short you should unroll the list of attractions, and get her to decide to stay here as long as possible’ (1980 edn, p. 62). For some of the watercolours of Gisors see Brettel & Lloyd, no. 171.

14       C. Nodier, J. Taylor & A. de Cailleux, Voyages pittoresques et romantiques dans

l’ancienne France: Normandie, II, Paris, 1820, pp. 135–53, for Gisors. On the

significance of the Voyages pittoresques see most recently the exhibition catalogue

of B. A. Grad & T. A. Riggs, Vision of City and Country. Prints and Photographs of

Nineteenth Century France, Worcester Art Museum, Mass., 1982.

15        K. Baedeker, Northern France from Belgium and the English Channel to the Loire

excluding Paris and its Environs, 3rd edn, Leipzig-London, 1899, p. 47.

16       P&V nos 1388, 1436, 1437, 1438. The title of P&V no. 1413 is given as Le Marché de Pontoise on the basis of a reference in a letter written by Lucien Pissarro to his

father on 1 June 1887 (Letters, edn 1980, p. 114), but the similarity of the setting with

P&V no. 1400 suggests very strongly that the location is really Gisors. In fact, P&V

no. 1413 is in essence a reworking in a vertical format of P&V no. 1400. The

reference in the letter has yet therefore to be properly explained. There is a

preparatory drawing in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (Brettell & Lloyd, no. 178). By

contrast, markets in Pontoise were held in the Place du Grand Martroy and the Place

du Petit Martroy both near the church of S. Maclou; a third was held by the church

of Notre Dame (P&V no. 188); and a fourth beneath the avenue of trees along the

Boulevard des Fossés (now the Boulevard J. Jaures) (P&V nos 1346, 1365, 1402).

17       P&V nos 690, 1401, 1465, 1473.

18       P&V no. 1347 entitled Marche aux bles Pontoise executed in gouache, the

preparatory drawing for which is in Oxford (Brettell & Lloyd, no. 127).

19       These are P&V nos 1372, 1387 and 1436. Examples of the traditional fairs are P&V nos 178 and 188, both of 1872, and P&V no. 449, c. 1878.

20       There are no surviving paintings of any markets in Paris, although the following

drawings might be so related: London, Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, Nineteenth Century

French Drawings, 15 June–15 July 1983, no. 32 reprod. traditionally entitled

Le Marché St Honoré and dated 1891; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, exhibited

Pissarro 1980–1, no. 132 where reference is also made to a further drawing inscribed

Un coin des Halles in the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass. (inv. 1943.394). As

regards this point, it must be said that it is not always easy to identify the locations

of the markets depicted by Pissarro and it is significant that those referred to in this

note are interiors or closed markets as opposed to the smaller open markets

associated with Pontoise and Gisors.

21 For the historical and economic background see E. Weber, Peasants into

Frenchmen. The Modernisation of Rural France 1870-1914, paperback edn, London,

1979, ch. 23, pp. 407-12.

22       The phrase is from Richard & Caroline Brettell, Painters and Peasants in the

Nineteenth Century, Geneva, 1983, p. 132. Several of the points made in this section

of the present article are taken from Richard and Caroline Brettell’s book. This ‘cyclical

investigation’ was perhaps to have been most fully illustrated in the projected publication

Travaux des Champs, for which see Brettell & Lloyd, pp. 66–85 and nos 322–78.

23        R. & C. Brettell, loc. cit.

24        Brettell in Pissarro 1980–1, p. 29. ‘While the factories symbolise the extension of

industry into the countryside, the markets represent the penetration of rural peasants

into the towns’. For the historical implications of this development see Weber,

op. cit., pp. 117–29 and 236–40.

25        R. & C. Brettell, op. cit., p. 133.

26        The two main examples are P&V nos 690 and 932 from which the prints Delteil 112 and 147 are derived (L. Delteil, Le Peintre-Graveur illustré. Pissarro, Sisley, Renoir,

XVII, Paris, 1923).

27       The principal artists of this genre were Pieter Aertsen and Joachim Beuckler, for

whom see generally R. Genaille, ‘D’Aertsen à Snyders: manierisme et baroque’,

Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique. Bulletin XVI, 1967, pp. 79–98.

28        This is the preparatory process for the print Delteil 112 for which see Pissarro 1980–1, nos 146 and 186–9. 

29        The main examples are P&V nos 1400 and 1433. 

30        This is most evident in the locations in Pontoise, particularly the Place du Grand Martroy, which was the subject of a photograph by Edouard Atget dating from 1902 (J. S. Szarkowski & Μ. M. Hamberg , The Work of Atget vol. I Old France, London, 1981, pp. 103 and 169–70); the Place du Petit-Martroy, which is the subject of two paintings by Pissarro’s close friend, Ludovic Piette; and the Boulevard des Fossés. The rue Cappeville in Gisors sloped as well, but, strangely, Pissarro does not seem to have taken advantage of the varied terrain of the château of Gisors. Relevant examples are P&V nos 1346 and 1402 (Boulevard des Fossés), 1361 (Place du Grand Martroy, and 1401 (rue Capeville). 

31        The painting is P&V no. 932 (mistitled in the catalogue raisonné): the lithograph Delteil 147. 

32        This was most probably the purpose of the preparatory drawing in Oxford (Brettell & Lloyd, no. 168E exhibited Pissarro 1980–1, no. 124). A similar concern, quite apart from descriptive detail, may have been the purpose of two early drawings of markets made when Pissarro was in Caracas: a sheet from a sketchbook in a private collection, Caracas (reprod. Brettell & Lloyd, p. 46, fig. 14) and a sheet once in the collection of Frederick Edwin Church preserved in his house at Olana, New York, on the Hudson River (inv. 1982.294). 

33        Allusions to the famous classical sculpture of the Three Graces are apparent in two of Pissarro’s paintings of female bathers (P&V nos 938 and 940). The composition closest to a classical relief in the poses of the figures in the foreground is P&V no. 862. 

34        R. & C. Brettell, op. cit., p. 132. 

35        A preliminary discussion of this may be found in Brettell & Lloyd, pp. 36–8. 

36        Fine examples are the sheets in Oxford forming part of Sketchbook XV (Brettell & Lloyd, no. 168). 

37        Exhibited Pissarro 1980–1, no. 142, but, in addition, see R. Thomson, ‘Camille Pissarro, “Turpitudes Sociales”, and the Universal Exhibition of 1889’, Arts Magazine 56, 1982, pp. 82–8. 

38        Caricature and class distinctions are also combined in the prints and drawings, or, for example, in the etching (Delteil 97) reproduced here (fig. 17), or Brettell & Lloyd, no. 214.