||Pissarro, Jacob Camille
After six years of quiet life in rural Éragny, Pissarro decided to make a prolonged visit to Paris, where he painted several series of the grande boulevards. By this time he had turned away from Neo-Impressionism, claiming its system was too artificial. He explained to a friend: “Having tried this theory for four years and having then abandoned it ... I can no longer consider myself one of the neo-impressionists... It was impossible to be true to my sensations and consequently to render life and movement, impossible to be faithful to the effects, so random and so admirable, of nature, impossible to give an individual character to my drawing, that I had to give up.” Reverting to his earlier style, his work became more subtle, its colour scheme more refined and his drawing firmer. Therefore, his time perfecting the skill of pointillism was not wasted, as he was now settling in to what later scholars would describe as the period of his increased mastery. Nevertheless, throughout his sixties, the artist continued to face financial hardships.
During his stay in Paris in 1897, Pissarro enjoyed surveying the view from his lodgings at the Grand Hotel de Russie, where he could see down the whole length of the boulevards with almost a bird’s-eye view of carriages, omnibuses and bustling citizens. From February to April, he worked diligently, producing canvases of two scenes of the boulevard des Italiens to the right and fourteen of the boulevard Montmartre to the left. The artist never ceased to marvel at the spectacle of urban life that unfolded below his window each day. The great variety of the scene gave him plenty to paint, allowing Pissarro to nurse his weakening eyesight in the shade of the hotel room.
The Boulevard Montmartre series of paintings reveals Pissarro’s approach to the systematic exploration of a series of views of the same subject, providing him with a remarkable scope and variety in his paintings. Focused on a single compositional device, Pissarro could thoroughly investigate the ever-shifting atmospheric conditions of the street, with weather and seasonal changes providing much differentiation to the subject.
Early in 1897, Pissarro wrote to his son, Lucien, that he had rented a room at the Grand Hôtel de Russie, "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". From there he painted a series of views of the boulevard Montmartre in different weather conditions and at varying times of the day (private collection, Switzerland, Pissarro and Venturi no. 986; this work, PV987; private collection, PV988–91; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, PV992; National Gallery, London, PV993; Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center, Los Angeles, PV995; Kunstmuseum, Winterthur, PV997; Stiftung "Langmatt" Sidney and Jenny Brown, Baden, PV998). Brettell and Pissarro (1992) also include Boulevard Montmartre: Spring Rain (private collection) in this series, but it was not mentioned in the catalogue raisonné.
Gift of Katrin S. Vietor, in loving memory of Ernest G. Vietor, 1960
Accession Number: 60.174
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): C.Pissarro.97
Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1897–1944; bought from the artist on May 11, 1897 for Fr 2,000; stock no. 4237;
consigned to Durand-Ruel, New York in 1933, consignment no. 8928;
sold on April 28, 1944 for $14,000 to Carstairs];
[Carroll Carstairs, New York, from 1944]; Stanley Newbold Barbee, Beverly Hills (until 1951; sold in December for $16,500 to Knoedler);
[Knoedler, New York, 1951–52; stock no. A4742; sold on January 15, 1952 for $25,000 to Vietor];
Mr. and Mrs. Ernest G. Vietor, New York and Greenwich, Conn. (1952–his d. 1959); Katrin S. (Mrs. Ernest G.) Vietor, New York and Greenwich, Conn. (1959–60; life interest, 1960–65)