We are grateful to Colin Harrison for his kind assistance with the cataloguing of the present work.
Painted in 1885, Apples on Table-Cloth Against a Lace-Curtained Window is a rare example of a still life rather than a rural landscape, which normally drew Pissarro’s attention, and is one of his earliest works, rooted firmly in the mainstream of French Impressionism. With its wonderful luminous sense of light, executed with dappled and distinct strokes of vibrant colour, the work encapsulates the skill of execution, as well as the knowledge of the European avant-garde, which Pissarro brought to British shores upon moving there permanently in 1890.
The son of the eminent painter Camille Pissarro, Lucien Pissarro was born in France and trained under his father, benefitting from the elder artist’s knowledge and acquiring the tenets of burgeoning Impressionist theory. By the year the present work was painted, Lucien was working in Paris, having spent the previous few years in England, and met Paul Signac and Georges Seurat at the Armand Guillaumin Gallery. The meeting led to a keen interest in the theories and principals of colour division and an enthusiasm for the pointillist systems. He and his father, along with Signac and Seurat, were the four divisionists, or pointillists, who caused popular consternation at the eighth and last Impressionist Exhibition in 1886. The sensation of the show was Seurat’s Un Dimanche à La Grande Jatte, which shocked public and artists alike – Théo van Rysselberghe was so incensed that he involuntarily snapped his cane in front of it. Although many critics assumed that Camille Pissarro, as the eldest of the four, was the group’s leader, he was, in fact, the last to adopt the divisionist technique, attracted by the enthusiasm of his son. It was also in 1886 that Pissarro met and worked with Vincent Van Gogh, who would go on to dedicate his Basket of Apples (1887, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Fig.1), which bears a distinct resemblance to the present work in terms of subject, compositional arrangement, and stylistic execution, to à l’ami Lucien Pissarro.
While Pissarro was wary of the pure scientific aspects of colour theory, he incorporated the use of autonomous brush strokes and combinations of colours to achieve a particular vibrancy and develop a freer, more personal, style of painting. His use of strokes and dashes of pure colour, seen in the present work, particularly on the ripe apples, to build up the image, placed him far ahead of any British artists of his day in his appreciation of the central tenets of Impressionism. It was these modern, experimental theories, as well as his direct links to the origins of Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism through his father, Seurat, Signac, and Van Gogh, which Pissarro brought to the British art scene. After settling in England, he exhibited at the New English Art Club from 1904, was invited to join Sickert’s Fitzroy Group in 1907, and became a founding member of the Camden Town Group in 1911. He was a vital source of guidance for British painters, and the influence of his style and technique was particularly prevalent amongst the younger artists of the group such as Spencer Gore and Harold Gilman.
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