Lot 19
  • 19

Camille Pissarro

8,000,000 - 12,000,000 GBP
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  • Camille Pissarro
  • Les Quatre saisons (L'Hiver, Le Printemps, L'Eté, L'Automne)
  • L'Hiver: signed C. Pissarro (lower right)

    Le Printemps: signed C. Pissarro and dated 1872 (lower left)

    L'Eté: signed C. Pissarro (lower left)

    L'Automne: signed C. Pissarro (lower left)

  • oil on canvas (in four parts)
  • each: 55 by 131cm.
  • 21 7/8 by 51 7/8 in. (approximately)


Achille Arosa, Paris (acquired from the artist in 1872. Sold: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 6th May 1891, lot 26)

Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paris (purchased at the above sale)

Alexander Reid, Glasgow (acquired from the above on 3rd March 1892. Sold: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 10th June 1898, lot 45 (titled La neige à Moret)) (this line of provenance only applies to L'Hiver; the other three canvases were purchased directly from Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paris by Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris on 4th April 1894)

Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (purchased at the above sale)

Paul Cassirer, Berlin (acquired from the above)

Hugo Cassirer, Berlin (acquired from the above on 21st February 1908)

Lotte Fürstenberg-Cassirer & Hugo Cassirer (sold by their estate: Sotheby's, London, 1st December 1971, lot 8)

J. Bradley (purchased at the above sale)

Galerie Schmit, Paris

Mr Nusser, London (acquired from the above in 1981)

Private Collection, Zurich

Sale: Christie's, New York, 5th November 1991, lot 36d

Private Collection, Europe (purchased at the above sale. Sold: Christie's, New York, 3rd November 2004, lot 33)

Private Collection, Europe (purchased at the above sale. Sold Christie’s, New York, 6th November 2007, lot 11)

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


London, Prince's Skating Rink, Second Exhibition of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, 1899, no. 36 (Le Printemps); no. 37 (L’Hiver); no. 43 (L’Eté); no. 44 (L’Automne)

Berlin, 12 Kantstrasse, Zweite Kunstausstellung der Berliner Secession, 1900, no. 230 (L’Eté); no. 231 (Le Printemps)

Munich, Kunstausstellungsgebäude, International Kunst-Ausstellung ‘Secession’, 1900, no. 223 (L’Automne)

Berlin, Paul Cassirer, Pissarro, 1904, no. 3 (Le Printemps); no. 4 (L’Eté); no. 5 (L’Automne); no. 6 (L’Hiver)

Berlin, Paul Cassirer, VI. Ausstellung, 1907, no. 72 (L’Eté); no. 73 (L’Hiver)

Copenhagen, Industriforeningen i Kjøbenhavn, Jodisk Udstilling, 1908, no. 1012 (Le Printemps); no. 1013 (L’Automne); no. 1014 (L’Eté); no. 1015 (L’Hiver)

The Hague, Gemeentemuseum (L’Hiver, Le Printemps & L’Eté on extended loan, June 1933-April 1939)

The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Catalogues van de schilderijen, aquarellen en teekeningen, 1935, 41-33 (Le Printemps); no. 42-33 (L’Eté); no. 43-33 (L’Automne); no. 44-33 (L’Hiver)

Buenos Aires, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes; Montevideo, Ministerio de Instrucción Pública & Rio de Janeiro, Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, La Pintura francesa de David a nuestros dias, 1939-40, no. 105a (Le Printemps); no. 105b (L’Eté); no. 105c (L’Automne); no. 105d (L’Hiver)

Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art (on extended loan 1946-1971)

Paris, Galerie Schmit, Les Impressionnistes et leurs précurseurs, 1972, no. 52 (Le Printemps); no. 53 (L’Eté); no. 54 (L’Automne); no. 55 (L’Hiver), illustrated in the catalogue

Paris, Galerie Schmit, Aspects de la peinture française (XIXe et XXe siècles), 1978, no. 48


‘International Art Exhibition’, in Black and White, 20th May 1899, mentioned p. 618

Emil Heilbut, ‘Die Impressionistenausstellung der wiener Secession’, in Kunst und Künstler, March 1903, illustrated p. 190 (L’Hiver)

Hans Rosenhagen, ‘Die Zweite Ausstellung der berliner Secession’, in Die Kunst für Alle, 15th July 1900, p. 465 (Le Printemps and L’Eté)

Hans Rosenhagen, ‘Von Ausstellungen und Sammlungen. Berlin Kunstsalon Paul Cassirer’, in Die Kunst für Alle, 15th April 1904, mentioned p. 338

Emil Heilbut, ‘Chronik’, in Kunst und Künstler, April 1904, mentioned p. 294 (L’Eté)

Adolphe Tabarant, Pissarro, Paris, 1924, mentioned p. 34

Charles Kunstler, ‘Des Lettres Inédites de Camille Pissarro à Octave Mirbeau 1891-1892 et à Lucien Pissarro 1898-1899’, in La revue de l'art ancien et moderne, March 1930, vol. LVII, mentioned pp. 188-189

Ludovic-Rodo Pissarro & Lionello Venturi, Camille Pissarro, son art - son oeuvre, Paris, 1939, vol. I, nos. 183-186, catalogued pp. 104-105; vol. II, nos. 183-186, illustrated pl. 37

John Rewald, Pissarro, Paris, n.d. [circa 1960], illustrated fig. 3 (Le Printemps and L’Eté) & 5 (L’Hiver)

John Rewald (ed.), Camille Pissarro: Letters to his son Lucien, New York, 1972, mentioned p. 168 (letter dated Paris, 9th May 1891)

John Rewald, ‘Theo van Gogh, Goupil, and The Impressionists’, in The Gazette des Beaux-Arts, January 1973, illustrated p. 55

John Rewald, ‘Theo van Gogh, Goupil, and The Impressionists, II’, in The Gazette des Beaux-Arts, February 1973, mentioned p. 74

John Rewald, C. Pissarro, Paris, 1974, illustrated p. 62 (Le Printemps and L’Eté); illustrated p. 63 (L’Hiver)

Christopher Lloyd, ‘Camille Pissarro and Japonisme’, in Japonisme in Art. An International Symposium, Tokyo, 1980, mentioned p. 177

Ralph E. Shikes & Paula Harper, Pissarro: His Life and Work, New York, 1980, mentioned p. 260

A Day in the Country: Impressionism and the French Landscape (exhibition catalogue), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1984, illustrated pp. 245-246 (L’Hiver, L’Eté and L’Automne)

Lili Jampoller, ‘Theo van Gogh and Camille Pissarro. Correspondence and an Exhibition’, in Simiolus, 1986, vol. XVI, mentioned p. 59 (letter dating from 5th July 1890)

John Rewald, Histoire de l'Impressionnisme, Paris, 1986, figs. 17-20, illustrated pp. 62-65

Richard Brettell, Pissarro and Pontoise: The Painter in a Landscape, New Haven, 1990, figs. 132-135, illustrated in colour pp. 152-153

Jean-Jacques Lévêque, Les années impressionnistes, 1870-1889, Courbevoie, 1990, illustrated in colour pp. 222-223

Pierre Michel & Jean-François Nivet, Octave Mirbeau. Correspondance avec Camille Pissarro, Tusson, 1990, no. 25, mentioned p. 77 (Le Printemps)

Janine Bailly-Herzberg, Correspondence de Camille Pissarro, Paris, 1991, vol. III, no. 660, mentioned p. 77; no. 728, mentioned p. 164; no. 732, mentioned p. 168; no. 737, mentioned p. 174

Christopher Lloyd, Pissarro, London, 1992, nos. 10-13, illustrated pp. 16-17

Peter H. Feist & Ingo F. Walther, Impressionist Art: Volume I. Impressionism in France, Cologne, 1993, illustrated in colour p. 106

Joachim Pissarro, Camille Pissarro, New York, 1993, illustrated in colour figs. 95-98

Impressionists in Winter: Effets de Neige (exhibition catalogue), The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., 1998, illustrated in colour p. 44 & illustrated p. 182 (L’Hiver)

Joachim Pissarro & Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro, Catalogue critique des peintures, Paris, 2005, vol. II, nos. 238-241, illustrated in colour pp. 196-197

Gauguin and Impressionism (exhibition catalogue), Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 2005, illustrated in colour p. 21

Pissarro: Creating the Impressionist Landscape (exhibition catalogue), The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, 2007, illustrated in colour pp. 60-61

Catalogue Note

Executed in 1872 and the first half of 1873, Pissarro’s majestic four canvas representation of the four seasons is one of the grandest achievements of Impressionist art. A more fitting subject for an Impressionist painter can scarcely be imagined, as depiction of light and colour as affected by temporal change was the essential premise of their art. These remarkable works were the product of a commission from Achille Arosa, a Parisian collector, and from their inception they proved to be an important transitional moment in Pissarro’s art. As Katherine Rothkopf writes: Winter at Louveciennes [L’Hiver] was the first canvas painted, perhaps early in 1872, and the others were completed in Pontoise. If they were painted in order of the seasons (winter, spring, summer and autumn), Pissarro’s sense of colour became increasingly bolder as he worked. [...] the winter scene […] features the most radical and abstract composition. Paint application becomes thicker and more exuberant as the series progresses, as Pissarro’s budding interest in light, shadows, atmosphere, and rural life seen in all its great glory is made manifest in this powerful quartet’ (K. Rothkopf in Pissarro: Creating the Impressionist Landscape (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., pp. 58-59).

Discussing Pissarro’s stylistic developments of the period Christopher Lloyd and Anne Distel have noted: ‘Stylistically, the first half of the 1870s is perhaps Pissarro's best known creative period, and the canvases painted in England and shortly afterwards in France have been more readily appreciated than those painted at any other time in his whole career. The artist retains a firmly controlled geometric structure as the framework for his compositions, but he employs a lighter touch in his brushwork and a brighter palette, both of which show the influence of Monet, whose technique of freely applying broken, separate patches of pure pigment Pissarro approached closely at this time. The paintings dating from the opening years of the 1870s therefore may, like those of Monet and Renoir, with good reason be described as the most purely Impressionist in Pissarro's entire oeuvre’ (C. Lloyd & A. Distel in Pissarro (exhibition catalogue), Hayward Gallery, London, 1980, p. 79). Furthermore, Richard Brettell proclaimed: ‘Les quatre saisons can be read in almost every way as a summa. They take their place within two of the most productive years in Pissarro's career. The images can be taken as proof - as much a proof as the painter's own testimony or the words of friends and subsequent historians - of his faith in France after the debacle of the Franco-Prussian War. They can be justifiably seen as the single most important manifestation of Pissarro's interests during the classic Pontoise period’ (R. Brettell, op. cit., p. 155).

The subject of the four seasons and the inexorable march of time have fascinated artists for centuries. From early interpretations by the Limbourg brothers for the Duc de Berry in the early 1400s to Cy Twombly’s Quattro Stagione painted in 1993-95, the universal importance of the seasons has provided limitless inspiration. Perhaps most famously, Pieter Breughel the Elder created a masterful cycle of the months filled with incidental detail and sentiment, some of which hang separately in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (figs. 1-4). In the nineteenth century no other major artist apart from Pissarro took up the challenge, though in the first years of the 1890s Monet executed his grand series of grainstacks focusing on the evanescent effects of light on them, which from close-up are perhaps the closest comparable achievements (figs. 5-8).

The first owner of the Les Quatre saisons was Achille Arosa, a wealthy Parisian art collector. The son of the financier François-Ezéchiel Arosa, much of his family’s wealth was derived from the trade in guano. Supremely well connected by links to the Rothschilds and the Pereires, the younger generation of the Arosa family could afford to take a direct interest in art and culture. Achille’s brother Gustave became the legal guardian of Paul Gauguin and his sister after the death of their mother in 1867, and Achille himself had an affair with Clementine de Bussy, the godmother and aunt of Claude Debussy. Arosa amassed an outstanding collection of Pissarro’s work, and along with his brother probably had the finest assemblage of early Impressionist art in Paris, the impact of which can be most directly assessed in Gauguin’s work and career. In his study of the Arosa brothers’ collecting and its impact on Gauguin, Richard Brettell writes that Achille's ‘most significant act as a collector was to commission the four seasonal overdoors by Pissarro in 1872. As we shall see, these made a lasting impact on the young Gauguin. It was the Arosas’ patronage of Pissarro’s early work that was to be Gauguin’s introduction to the Impressionists’ (R. Brettell, op. cit. (exhibition catalogue), Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 2005, p. 21). In 1891 Achille Arosa’s collection was sold at auction in Paris, and bought by the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune. These four canvases were briefly separated when Alexander Reid, the Glaswegian dealer, acquired L’Hiver in 1892, but they were soon reunited by Paul Cassirer in Berlin. Henceforth the series has remained together, as intended, in a number of important private collections.