MARCHÉ À PONTOISE (The Market at Pontoise)

On April 8, 1895 Camille Pissarro wrote “I have a large lithograph on stone in process, a Market. I am working on it here in Paris. I messed it up with wash, scratched it, rubbed it with sandpaper; I do not know what will come of it, but it was foolish of me to make a Market, I should have done some Bathers.” (Letters, p. 375)

Despite Pissarro’s misgivings, this lithograph is one of his most forceful market images. To be sure, he made many representations of market places in all media, but in this example he has captured the essence of a favorite subject. Pissarro isolated a fragment of activity, yet, perversely, he forces the viewer to look around the back of he solid central figure. The strong peasant woman towers above a mass of clustered baskets and acts as a vertical pivot and source, from which the noise and activity emanate. The several figures who dominate the foreground plane are set against a sea of anonymous faces. Only a few touches, such as the crosshatching on the kerchief of a woman in the middle distance, distinguish the various figures.

Barbara Stern Shapiro, Camille Pissarro 1830-1903, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1981, no. 193, p. 223 (ill.);
Anne Röver, Camille Pissarro: Etchings, Lithographs, Monotypes, Kunsthalle Bremen, 1991, no. 84, p. 93 (ill.);
Barbara Stern Shapiro, Camille Pissarro, Hatje Cantz Publishers, Stuttgart, 1999, fig, 12, p. 167 (ill.);
cf. Richard R. Brettell, Pissarro’s People, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2011, no. 176 (oil), p. 228 (ill.).

About Camille Pissarro

Often regarded as the first Impressionist, Camille Pisarro is known both for his revelatory plein air landscape pictures, such as in The Path to Les Puilleaux, Pontoise (1881), and for mentoring artists including Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin. Pisarro himself was inspired by the rural scenes of Realists Jean Francois Millet and Gustave Courbet. He also received artistic guidance from Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, who instructed him in outdoor painting after Pisarro’s move to Paris in 1855. Pisarro, however, placed greater emphasis than Corot on spontaneity, saying “paint generously and unhesitatingly, for it is best not to lose the first impression.” From 1885-1889 Pisarro worked with Divisionist artists Paul Signac and Georges Seurat, but their meticulous method proved too rigid for Pisarro, who felt that it could not capture the movement and randomness of nature.

French, 1830-1903, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, based in Paris, France

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Inventing Impressionism, The National Gallery, London, London