The present composition is a wonderfully rich and atmospheric depiction of the field laborers near Pissarro’s house in Eragny, a small village on the banks of the river Epte. Pissarro and his family moved to Eragny, situated some three kilometers from Gisors, in the spring of 1884. In July 1892 Pissarro purchased the house his family had been renting for the previous eight years with the financial help of Claude Monet, who lived in the neighboring Giverny. The house exists to this day, in a street named after the artist.
Pissarro was delighted with the tranquility of his new environment and with the endless source of inspiration it offered him. In a letter to his son Lucien dated March 1st, 1884, the artist wrote: “Yes, we’ve made up our minds on Eragny-sur-Epte. The house is superb and inexpensive: a thousand francs, with garden and meadow. It’s two hours from Paris. I found the region much more beautiful than Compiègne... Gisors is superb: we’d seen nothing!” (quoted in Joachim Pissarro & Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro, Catalogue critique des peintures
, vol. III, Paris, 2005, p. 499).
Pissarro was a vocal supporter who sympathized with the working people of the French countryside. The symbolism of the field workers harvesting grain had great socio-political resonance and calls to mind the paintings of his artistic predecessor, the venerable landscape painter Jean-François Millet.
During his years in Eragny, these subjects became the focal point of Pissarro’s art, and as Joachim Pissarro has observed: “His representations of these fields and gardens constitute the most spectacularly intense pictorial effort to ‘cover’ a particular given space in his career” (Joachim Pissarro, Camille Pissarro, London, 1993, p. 225).