- Camille Pissarro
- Le Boulevard Montmartre, matinée de printemps
- signed C. Pissarro and dated 97 (lower left)
- oil on canvas
Mr Burke, London (acquired from the above on 11th January 1899)
Arthur Tooth & Sons, London
Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris (acquired from the above on 14th August 1901)
Paul Cassirer, Berlin (acquired from the above on 13th October 1902)
Adolf Rothermundt, Dresden (acquired circa 1914)
Max Silberberg, Breslau (acquired by 1923)
Sale: Paul Graupe, Berlin, 23rd March 1935, lot 27 (forced sale by Max Silberberg)
Alfred & Marie Erlich, New York
Nathan J. & Sara N. Cohn, Mount Vernon (acquired from the above)
Knoedler & Co., New York (acquired from the above on 9th November 1959)
John & Frances L. Loeb, New York (acquired from the above on 4th January 1960)
The American Friends of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem (a bequest from the above in 1997)
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem (a gift from the above in 1997)
Restituted to Gerta Silberberg on 1st February 2000, and placed on loan with The Israel Museum until 2013
St. Petersburg, Société Impériale d’Encouragement des Arts, Expositions française des Beaux-Arts et des Arts décoratifs, 1899, no. 274
Rheims, Société des Amis des Arts, 16e Exposition générale, 1901, no. 563
Dresden, Galerie Ernst Arnold, Ausstellung von Gemälden französischer Künstler, 1902, no. 26
Dresden, Galerie Ernst Arnold, Französische Malerei des XIX. Jahrhunderts, 1914, no. 79
New York, Wildenstein & Co., C. Pissarro, 1965, no. 66
New York, Wildenstein & Co., ‘One Hundred Years of Impressionism’: A Tribute to Durand-Ruel, 1970, no. 88, illustrated in the catalogue
Dallas, Dallas Museum of Art; Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art & London, Royal Academy of Arts, The Impressionist and the City: Pissarro’s Series Paintings, 1992-93, no. 51, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Rovereto, Museo d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Impressionists and Post-Impressionists: Masterpieces from the Israel Museum of Jerusalem, 2008-09, no. 6
Karl Scheffler, ‘Breslauer Kunstleben’, in Kunst und Künstler: illustrierte Monatsschrift für bildende Kunst und Kunstgewerbe, Jahrgang XXI, 1923, illustrated p. 134 (titled Boulevard des Italiens)
Karl Scheffler, ‘Die Sammlung Max Silberberg’, in Kunst und Künstler, October 1931, mentioned p. 12
Paul Graupe & Cie. (ed.), Un choix d’objects importants vendus par notre maison, Paris, circa 1937-40, illustrated
Ludovic-Rodo Pissarro & Lionello Venturi, Camille Pissarro, son art - son œuvre, Paris, 1939, vol. I, no. 991, catalogued p. 218; vol. II, no. 991, illustrated pl. 199
Gotthard Jedlicka, Pissarro, Bern, 1950, illustrated pl. 39
Thadée Natanson, Pissarro, Lausanne, 1950, illustrated pl. 39
John Rewald, Pissarro, Paris, 1960, illustrated fig. 50
Kathleen Adler, ‘Camille Pissarro. City and Country in the 1890’s’, in Studies on Camille Pissarro, London & New York, 1987, mentioned p. 113
Janine Bailly-Herzberg, Correspondence de Camille Pissarro, Paris, 1991, vol. IV, nos. 1555-56, 1575 & 1577-79, mentioned pp. 489-490 & 506-507
Joachim Pissarro, Camille Pissarro, New York & London, 1993, illustrated p. 261
Peter Watson & Sharne Thomas, ‘Nazi Legacy of Art Treasure Chaos’, in The Times, 6th March 1999, mentioned p. 23
Joachim Pissarro & Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro, Critical Catalogue of Paintings, Paris, 2005, vol. III, no. 1171, illustrated in colour p. 736
Melissa Müller & Monika Tatzkow, Lost Lives, Lost Art: Jewish Collectors, Nazi Art Theft, and the Quest for Justice, New York, 2010, discussed pp. 117-131, incorrectly illustrated p. 123
Camille Pissarro - Le Boulevard Montmartre, matinée de printemps
Le Boulevard Montmartre, matinée de printemps, painted in 1897, is an outstanding work from one of the most important series of Pissarro’s urban views. The excitement and spectacle of the city at the fin-de-siècle is brilliantly evoked by the artist’s handling of paint and the elegant composition.
The remarkable scope and variety of the Boulevard Montmartre series reveals Pissarro’s approach to the systematic exploration of a series of views of the same subject. Focused upon a single compositional device – the magnificent procession of the Boulevard Montmartre – the artist thoroughly investigated the different atmospheric conditions of the street. This variety is illustrated by two distinct determinations - the weather and the activity represented. Thus there are festive afternoons (fig. 1) as well as comparatively tranquil ones, sparsely populated streets in winter and conversely busy scenes, as well as a view of the street at night (fig. 2). Joachim Pissarro writes: ‘As his most systematic and homogenous compositions, and his most clearly focused series, as well as one of his most rapidly achieved, the boulevard Montmartre series addresses elementary issues inherent in serial procedures. While representing a single motif seen under different combinations of light, weather and seasonal change, Pissarro’s approach to this series was capable of producing an infinite number of possibilities’ (J. Pissarro in The Impressionist and the City: Pissarro's Series Paintings (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 60). The artist accomplished this triumphant series by working methodically for over two months at the window of his hotel room from dawn till dusk, with only two and a half hours for lunch.
Pissarro’s series paintings of Paris in the late 1890s are amongst the supreme achievements of Impressionism, taking their place alongside Claude Monet’s series of Rouen Cathedral, poplars and grainstacks and the later waterlilies. For an artist who throughout his earlier career was primarily celebrated as a painter of rural life rather than the urban environment, the Boulevard Montmartre, Gare Saint-Lazare and Jardin des Tuileries series confirmed his position as the preeminent painter of the City. However, Richard R. Brettell also argues that in contrast to Monet’s work, for Pissarro ‘no “series” is quite like another’ and was not initially conceived to be hung together. ‘By contrast, it seems as though Pissarro ‘tested the waters’ of urban view painting, found them temptingly warm and stayed in them less as a result of a grand design than because he was enjoying the experience. One senses little of the intense struggle to redefine painting that occupied Monet in his series. Rather, Pissarro appears almost to have been liberated by urban view painting’ (R. R. Brettell in ibid., p. xv).
Pissarro’s pictures of the City coincided with an important development in his handling of paint. Discussing the artist’s approach to painting urban scenes, Karen Levitov writes: ‘Pissarro used the word “passage” to explain his latest technical experimentations, which moved him away from what he increasingly found to be the harsh contrasts and lack of spontaneity in the Neo-Impressionist technique. Passage can also suggest the modern transitions – in geographic location, artistic methodology, and political ideology – embodied by Pissarro’s pathways’ (K. Levitov, Camille Pissarro. Impressions of City & Country (exhibition catalogue), The Jewish Museum, New York, 2007, pp. 10-11). The inexpressive nature of the pointillist technique concerned Pissarro, and by the late 1880s he sought a compromise between the vibrancy and sensibility: ‘I think continually of some way of painting without the dot. I hope to achieve this but I have not been able to solve the problem of dividing the pure tone without harshness… How can one combine the purity and simplicity of the dot with the fullness, suppleness, liberty, spontaneity and freshness of sensation postulated by our impressionist art?' (letter from the artist to his son Lucien Pissarro, 6th September 1888, quoted in John Rewald & Lucien Pissarro (eds.), Camille Pissarro: Letters to his son Lucien, Boston, 2002, p. 132). The works produced in the following decade represent the successful reconciliation between tonal purity and atmospheric effect. Pissarro’s richly painted canvases, such as the present work, are imbued with a sensual appreciation of brushwork and texture.
On 8th February 1897 Pissarro wrote from Eragny to his son Lucien informing him of his return to the city: ‘I am returning to Paris again on the tenth, to do a series of the boulevard des Italiens. Last time I did several small canvases – about 13 x 10 inches – of the rue Saint-Lazare, effects of rain, snow, etc., with which Durand was very pleased. A series of paintings of the boulevards seems to him a good idea, and it will be interesting to overcome the difficulties. I engaged a large room at the Grand Hôtel de Russie, 1 rue Drouot, from which I can see the whole sweep of boulevards almost as far as the Porte Saint-Denis, anyway as far as the boulevard Bonne Nouvelle [fig. 3]’ (Letter from the artist to his son, Lucien Pissarro, 8th February 1897, quoted in John Rewald & Lucien Pissarro (eds.), ibid., p. 307).
Although he initially planned to dedicate his efforts to depicting the Boulevard des Italiens, problems arose with composition. Writing to his third son, Georges, the artist announced: ‘I have begun my series of Boulevards. I have a splendid motif which I am going to explore under all possible effects [including the present work], to my left; I have another motif, which is terribly difficult: almost as the crow flies, looking over the carriages, buses and people milling about the large trees and big houses which I have to set up right – it’s tricky… It goes without saying I must resolve it all the same’ (letter from the artist to his son Georges Manzana-Pissarro, 13th February 1897, in Janine Bailly-Herzberg, op. cit., p. 325). This troublesome motif was eventually resolved into two works entitled Le Boulevard des Italiens: matin (fig. 4) and Le Boulevard des Italiens, après-midi, both of which emphasised the bustling energy of the street adjacent to his hotel. The ‘splendid motif’ was the farthest east of Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s Grand Boulevards – The Boulevard Montmartre.
As part of the ambitious reforms Napoleon III introduced during the 1860s, Haussmann was charged with masterminding a radical reconfiguration of Paris. Many parts of the medieval city were razed to provide space for an extensive grid of straight roads, avenues and boulevards. The ‘Haussmannisation’ of Paris which is celebrated today as the precursor to modern urban planning, met with admiration and scorn in equal measure at the time - not least because of the staggering 2.5 billion francs spent on the project. However, in another letter to his son Lucien, Pissarro extolled the artistic possibilities presented by the new urban landscape: ‘It may not be very aesthetic, but I’m delighted to be able to have a go at Paris streets, which are said to be ugly, but are [in fact] so silvery, so bright, so vibrant with life […] they’re so totally modern!’ (letter from the artist to his son Lucien Pissarro, 15th December 1897, quoted in J. Pissarro & C. Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, op. cit., p. 728). These sentiments are also illustrated in the works of his contemporaries, such as Claude Monet and Gustave Caillebotte, whose views of Paris captured the grandeur and commotion of the modern city (figs. 5 & 6).
Haussmann’s renovations provided the perfect setting for a burgeoning middle-class, whose appetite for modern painting far outstripped that of the established aristocracy. Pissarro’s views of Paris focused principally on the new vistas, which not only proved highly successful artistically but also critically and commercially. As Lucien commented upon hearing about his father’s plans to execute a series of street scenes: ‘What a good idea you had to install yourself in Paris, this will make you more successful in the eyes of the Parisians who love only their city, when all’s said and done, not to mention the enjoyment you’ll get from this thoroughly new series’ (quoted in Anne Thorold (ed.), The Letters of Lucien to Camille Pissarro 1883-1903, Oxford, 1993, p. 529). Having encouraged Pissarro to attempt more paintings of the city, Durand-Ruel was delighted by the resulting Boulevard Montmartre series, and bought the majority of the canvases upon completion. The artist held the present work in particularly high esteem; he wrote to Durand-Ruel: ‘I have just received an invitation from the Carnegie Institute for this year’s exhibition: I’ve decided to send them the painting Le Boulevard Montmartre, matinée de printemps… So please do not sell it’ (letter from the artist to Paul Durand-Ruel, quoted in J. Pissarro & C. Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, op. cit., p. 736). However, his dealer chose to ignore Pissarro’s instructions and sent a later work depicting the Avenue de l’Opéra instead. In 1992 Le Boulevard Montmartre, matinée de printemps was reunited with others from the series in an exhibition held in Dallas, Philadelphia and London which sought to confirm Pissarro's depictions of the Boulevard Montmartre as the greatest and most innovative series of urban landscapes of his œuvre.