Lot 9
  • 9

CAMILLE PISSARRO | Le Boulevard Montmartre, fin de journée

3,500,000 - 5,000,000 GBP
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  • Camille Pissarro
  • Le Boulevard Montmartre, fin de journée
  • signed C. Pissarro and dated 97 (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 54 by 65cm.
  • 21 1/4 by 25 5/8 in.
  • Painted in 1897.


Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris (acquired from the artist on 11th May 1897) Julius Stern, Berlin (acquired from the above on 21st September 1897. Sold: Paul Cassirer und Hugo Helbing, Berlin, Sammlung Julius Stern, 22nd May 1916, lot 76)

Alfred Sommerguth, Berlin (purchased at the above sale)

Gertrud Sommerguth, Berlin (a gift from the above, Christmas 1928)

Galerie Nathan, Zurich (1941)

Private Collection, Europe

This lot is offered pursuant to a settlement agreement between the present owner and the heirs of Alfred and Gertrud Sommerguth.


Basel, Kunsthalle, Impressionisten - Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, 1949, possibly no. 166 Bern, Kunstmuseum, Camille Pissarro, 1957, no. 94 (titled Boulevard Montmartre, soleil couchant)

Lausanne, Palais de Beaulieu, Chefs-d'œuvre des collections suisses: de Manet à Picasso, 1964, no. 54

Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie, Chefs-d'œuvre des collections suisses de Manet à Picasso, 1967, no. 48


Ludovic-Rodo Pissarro & Lionello Venturi, Camille Pissarro - son art, son œuvre, Paris, 1939, vol. I, no. 989, catalogued p. 218; vol. II, no. 989, illustrated pl. 199 (titled Boulevard Montmartre, soleil couchant) Kathleen Adler, 'Camille Pissarro: City and Country in the 1890s', in Christopher Lloyd (ed.), Studies on Camille Pissarro, London & New York, 1987, p. 113, note 1

Janine Bailly-Herzberg, Correspondance de Camille Pissarro, Paris, 1990, vol. IV, letter no. 1436, mentioned p. 375

The Impressionist and the City: Pissarro's Series Paintings (exhibition catalogue), Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia & Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1992-93, no. 49, illustrated in colour p. 68 (titled Boulevard Montmartre, soleil couchant)

Joachim Pissarro & Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro. Catalogue critique des peintures, Paris, 2005, vol. III, no. 1170, illustrated in colour p. 736

Catalogue Note

‘I have begun my series of Boulevards. I have a splendid motif which I am going to explore under all possible effects.’ Camille Pissarro, letter to his son Georges Manzana-Pissarro, 13th February 1897




Depicting the busy Parisian street with its pavement, buildings and trees bathed in a warm glow of the setting sun, Le Boulevard Montmartre, fin de journée 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 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. 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.