CAMILLE PISSARROLe Boulevard Montmartre, brume du matin
- Camille Pissarro
- Le Boulevard Montmartre, brume du matin
- signed C. Pissarro and dated 97 (lower left)
- oil on canvas
Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York (acquired from the above in 1926)
Madeleine de Brecey (granddaughter of Paul Durand-Ruel; acquired in 1949)
Sam Salz, New York
Mrs Etta E. Steinberg (acquired from the above in May 1956. Sold: Christie’s, New York, 19th May 1981, lot 335)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Tableaux de Monet, Pissarro, Renoir et Sisley, 1899, no. 65
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Camille Pissarro, 1904, no. 105
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Pissarro, 1908, no. 22
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Tableaux et gouaches par Camille Pissarro, 1910, no. 10
(probably) Baltimore, The Baltimore Museum of Art, C. Pissarro, 1936, no. 13
(probably) New York, Coordinating Council of French Relief Societies, Paris, 1943
Saint Louis, City Art Museum (on loan 1975-80)
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. 46, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (titled Boulevard Montmartre: Morning, Sunlight and Mist)
Art News, April 1956, illustrated p. 75 (titled Boulevard Montmartre)
Kathleen Adler, ‘Camille Pissarro. City and Country in the 1980s’, in Christopher Lloyd (ed.), Studies on Camille Pissarro, London & New York, 1987, mentioned p. 113
Apollo, London, November 1992, fig. II, illustrated in colour p. 274 (titled Boulevard Montmartre: Morning, Sunlight and Mist)
Joachim Pissarro & Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro, Catalogue critique des peintures, Paris, 2005, vol. III, no. 1162, illustrated in colour p. 730
Camille Pissarro, letter to his son Georges Manzana-Pissarro, 13th February 1897
Le Boulevard Montmartre, brume du matin, 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 are 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 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.
Joachim Pissarro wrote: ‘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.
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).
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’ (letter from the artist to his son, Lucien Pissarro, 8th February 1897, quoted in John Rewald & Lucien Pissarro (eds.), Camille Pissarro: Letters to his Son Lucien, Boston, 2002, p. 307).
As part of the ambitious reforms Napoleon III introduced during the 1860s, Georges-Eugène 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. 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.