Camille Pissarro
A Corner of the Garden

A Corner of the Garden at the Hermitage, Pontoise
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
A Corner of the Garden at the Hermitage, Pontoise
1877
Oil on canvas
H. 55; W. 46 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Coin de jardin à l'Hermitage, Pontoise [A Corner of the Garden at the Hermitage, Pontoise]


A Corner of the Garden at the Hermitage seems to move away from Pissarro's familiar world towards the more sophisticated and urban one of Monet's gardens. In this almost square picture, an attractive garden replaces the usual village vegetable gardens and cultivated flowers; trees and shrubs take the place of cabbages, lettuces and artichokes. The difference is not without significance. During the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874, Pissarro was severely reproached for his propensity to portray the ordinary vegetable in place of noble vegetation. But Pissarro, who described himself in a letter to his son Lucien in 1887 as "a penniless bourgeois ", was not a man fixed in one particular social class. He did not live as a rustic hermit amidst the peasants around Pontoise. Not only had he seen the similar compositions of Renoir and Monet but he had known the residence described here, the property of Marie Desraimes (1828-1894), a member of the wealthy upper class and a committed republican. Although around 1876, Pissarro had, on several occasions painted the park that surrounded this vast building, here he seems to concentrate on the dialogue between two little girls playing on a bench, in the shade of the luxuriant vegetation. Very subtly, at an appropriate distance, he leans towards the secrets and imagination of childhood. The two central figures provide the focal point, as in Corot's paintings, of a formal design which orchestrates numerous twisting lines. And this small bench amongst the flowers becomes a fairy boat, halfway between children's fairytales and yachting – one of the Impressionists' favourite themes.
On the right, the furtive architectural reminder introduces a skilful imbalance as if trying to convey the feeling of a fleeting glance. This glance to the side does not disturb the solidity of the composition where a strong influence of Cézanne can be discerned. The two artists often worked together during this period and influenced each other. The method of applying colour in short vibrant streaks, particularly noticeable in the green mass of the bushes waving about at the top of the painting, is a sign of this decisive and enduring collaboration.




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