Introducing a new blog series, A Closer Look, where we examine a work in the AGO Collection.
What’s that warm feeling outside? Could it be? Spring has finally arrived! The tulips and daffodils are popping up, the buds are about to burst on the trees and gardeners are pulling out their rakes. What a perfect moment to take a close look at the beautiful Pissarro painting, Peupliers, temps gris, Éragny (Springtime, Grey Weather, Éragny).
With its lime green grasses, curving stream and trees daubed in pinky mauves, this work feels like a breath of fresh air. The setting is Pissarro’s farm in Éragny, France – this is a view from his studio window. A working farm that provided food and a bit of income for the family, Pissarro moved there in 1884 and stayed for the rest of his life. To buy the farm, he borrowed money from friend and fellow Impressionist painter Claude Monet, who had been much more commercially successful. This is one of three canvases Pissarro sold in April 1895, and he instructed his dealer to send 3,000 francs to Monet to help pay the debt for the farm purchase.
A Painter for the People
The scene is dominated by slim and elegant poplar trees, with a row of smaller trees in the foreground. In the bottom centre, a farm worker turns soil with his spade, prepping the ground for planting. Pissarro’s paintings often feature everyday people going about their work. He tried to portray the importance and dignity of domestic and farm workers. Later in life, Pissarro criticized society’s value of class and wealth, and he associated with socialist anarchist movements.
Although not as famous as his friends Monet or Renoir, many critics consider Pissarro the father of Impressionism. He acted as an elder statesman of the movement, teaching and influencing an entire generation of painters. “We learned everything we do from Pissarro,” artist Paul Cézanne said in the 1890s. “It’s he who was really the first Impressionist.”
Up Close & Personal
Despite the grey weather mentioned in its title, a close viewing of this painting rewards you with a stunning variety of vibrant colour. Visit this and other dreamy scenes on Level One in the Richard Barry Fudger Memorial Gallery, Gallery 125.
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