Musée d'Orsay: Camille Pissarro Red roofs

Camille Pissarro
Red roofs

Red roofs, corner of a village, winter
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
Red roofs, corner of a village, winter
Oil on canvas
H. 54.5; W. 65.6 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

Les toits rouges, coin de village, effet d'hiver [Red roofs, corner of a village, winter]

The title, Red roofs, corner of a village, winter, makes clear the theoretical dimension of this work by Camille Pissarro. In this painting he in fact moves away from an anecdotal idea of landscape.
The planes are in parallel succession on the surface of the canvas. So the impression of depth is rendered simply by the decreasing size of the subjects. The slopes of the roofs, varying from orange-red to brown, seem to spread across the whole surface. The same tones can be found in the fields and plants in the foreground, as well as on the Côte St Denis in the background. The thick impasto catches the light, and makes the brushstrokes vibrant, conferring a great intensity and feeling of movement on the painted surface.

This painting dates from the time after 1865 when Pissarro and Cézanne used to work together on the same subject. But Cézanne's version, The Orchard, Côte St Denis, at Pontoise (on loan to the Museum of Fine Arts, Saint Petersburg, Florida) offers a view from higher up. The houses and roofs disappear behind a curtain of trees, and the effects of the colours are limited by this intrusive vegetation.

Pissarro presented the Red Roofs at the third Impressionist Exhibition in 1877. Cézanne does not appear to have exhibited his own version. So Pissarro alone benefited from a review praising this subject, by the critic A. Descubes in the Gazette des lettres, des sciences et des arts of 20th April 1877: "A pretty painting, a small house hidden in the forest, which impressed us with its strong and simple touch".

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