Peasant Girl Lighting a Fire can be compared with two other paintings by Pissarro, also in the Musée d'Orsay: Girl with a Stick (1881) and Woman with a Green Shawl (1893). Peasant women were one of Pissarro's most personal and fertile subjects, a distant echo of Millet's peasants.
When he painted this picture, Pissarro was still a major representative of the Impressionist movement he had helped found. Yet, from 1886, he had taken an interest in the experimental work of young artists, adopting the fragmented brushstrokes of the method Georges Seurat was trying out. A group of "independent" Belgian artists invited them both to take part in the Exhibition of the XX in Brussels, in 1887 and 1889. Peasant Girl Lighting a Fire featured in the exhibition in 1889.
Pissarro however quickly drew away from the Neo-impressionists and their new form of expression. He sought a compromise which would avoid excessive fragmentation of the brushstrokes "while obeying the laws of colour as much as possible." Such ambiguity has its limits, as Paul Signac pointed out in his diary: "He could not find what he wanted in our technique [...] of opposition and contrast. He was looking for unity in variety, and we sought variety in unity." The result was this very personal idea of divisionism in which the fine mesh of brushstrokes forms a dense substance, the fruit of slow, painstaking work, and yields a soft, unified luminous effect.