This view of Pontoise, just northwest of Paris, helped establish Pissarro’s reputation as an innovative painter of the rural French landscape. The critic Émile Zola praised the picture enthusiastically when it was shown along with another rustic scene at the Salon of 1868, writing, "This is the modern countryside. One feels that man has passed by, turning and cutting the earth. . . . And this little valley, this hill have a heroic simplicity and forthrightness. Nothing would be more banal were it not so grand. From ordinary reality the painter's temperament has drawn a rare poem of life and strength."
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Title:Jalais Hill, Pontoise
Artist:Camille Pissarro (French, Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas 1830–1903 Paris)
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:34 1/4 x 45 1/4 in. (87 x 114.9 cm)
Credit Line:Bequest of William Church Osborn, 1951
The Artist: The birth of Jacob Abraham Camille Pissarro on July 10, 1830 was registered in the Charlotte Amalie synagogue on St. Thomas in the Danish West Indies (now the U.S. Virgin Islands). He was a Danish citizen. His parents were Frédéric, a Frenchman of Portuguese Jewish descent, and Rachel, a French Jewish widow born on the island. Frédéric arrived in 1824 to manage a family business, and they soon married. Camille, who was the third of their four children, all sons, attended boarding school in Passy, a suburb of Paris, from 1842 until 1847. Later, having returned to St. Thomas, he met the Danish artist Fritz Melbye (1826–1869), with whom he spent two years in Caracas. He settled permanently in France in 1855 and then, in 1859, launched his career by exhibiting Donkey in Front of a Farm, Montmorency at the official Paris Salon (as no. 2472, Landscape at Montmorency; now Musée d’Orsay, Paris, R.F. 1943–8). Shortly thereafter, he met Julie Vellay (1838–1926), a maid in the home of his parents, who were resettled in Passy. Julie’s family were Burgundian vineyard workers, and she had just arrived from the country. Soon after the onset of their affair, the young Christian peasant woman was dismissed, while Pissarro nevertheless remained dependent on his family allowance. The couple’s son Lucien was born in Paris on February 20, 1863.
Camille Pissarro was an ever-helpful senior figure among the Impressionists, painters of modern life for whom landscape was a central focus, capturing fleeting effects of light and color while working before the motif. He was influenced by François Daubigny and Camille Corot, whom he listed as his teacher when, in 1864, he exhibited Banks of the Marne at the Salon (as no. 1558; now Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, 2934). From 1857, he worked at an informal art school called the Académie Suisse (see Courbet, Monsieur Suisse, The Met 29.100.120), where he met Claude Monet, probably in 1860; Paul Cézanne in 1861; and, by 1863, Auguste Renoir, Frédéric Bazille, and Alfred Sisley. Pissarro had his first major critical success at the 1868 Salon (see below). He settled at L’Hermitage by Pontoise, a two-hour train journey north from Paris, and moved in spring 1869 to Louveciennes in the Seine valley. Renoir arrived there in the summer, while Monet was nearby, but their activity at a moment of great promise was violently disrupted one year later by the Franco-Prussian War in summer 1870. Camille and Julie fled to suburban London, where, on June 14, 1871, they contracted a civil marriage.
Returning to Louveciennes, Pissarro worked with Sisley and, in 1872, when the family moved to Pontoise, with Cézanne. Also in 1872 the dealer Paul Durand-Ruel (1831–1922) began to buy from the artist, who finally could support his family. Pissarro was also central to the organization of the Impressionist shows; he was the only artist to participate in all eight of the group exhibitions (the first of which opened on April 15, 1874), for him a busy, successful period. The artist fathered a large family. The children of Julie’s additional pregnancies—three died young—were Jeanne (Minette), born in 1865, Adèle in 1870, Georges in 1871, Félix in 1874, Ludovic-Rodo in 1878, Jeanne (Cocotte) in 1881, and Paul-Emile in 1884. There was no financial security; by the late 1870s the artist was desperate for funds. They moved to Osny in 1882–83 and, in 1884, to Eragny, Pissarro’s primary residence for the rest of his life.
Pissarro took up figure painting about 1880. A convinced anarchist, he underlined the labors and dignity of the French peasantry in the face of industrialization. Under the influence of the young Neo-Impressionist Georges Seurat, he explored the new methodology of Pointillism, applying spots of pure color that when viewed from a distance resolved into a legible composition. His contributions to the final Impressionist exhibition in 1886 were in the Neo-Impressionist style. Pissarro was always active and restless. In 1893, when wintry weather drove him to Paris, he took a hotel room overlooking the Gare Saint-Lazare and prepared four animated cityscapes. In 1896, he twice visited Rouen to paint from hotel rooms in the city center (see The Met 58.133, painted in the winter, and 1980.21.1, painted the following autumn). He later devoted himself to, and easily sold, works in series, notably representing the boulevard Montmartre (see The Met 60.174) and the Tuileries Gardens (see The Met 66.36, 1979.414, 1992.103.3). He finished his life working in the country, with visits to the Normandy coast, in comfort, ease, and prosperity.
Pontoise and L’Hermitage: From 1866 until 1883—with intervals at Louveciennes in the Seine valley before and after, and in London during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71—Pissarro lived with his family either in the village of L’Hermitage just outside Pontoise, or in the town proper, the population of which was just over six thousand people. Pontoise is located to the northwest of Paris on the Oise River and provided a recently established rail link to the Gare Saint-Lazare in the capital (about twenty miles away), which the artist used for visits and to conduct his business in the city. One of Pissarro’s submissions accepted for the 1868 Salon was Jalais Hill, Pontoise, completed the previous year. Large, ambitious, and accomplished, the painting is evidence of his growing attachment to the area. The two views he exhibited in 1868 were singled out for high praise by several critics (including Emile Zola, childhood companion of Pissarro’s friend and admirer Paul Cézanne). The canvas was never sold and passed by descent to his widow and to one of their sons.
The Painting: From a country road called the chemin des Mathurins, Pissarro showed Jalais hill rising across the background. Far away on the horizon at center left are the steeple of the church of Saint-Maclou—now the cathedral of Pontoise—and a section of city wall; to the right, the silhouettes of leafy trees form an irregular pattern against the sky. Pissarro lived below in various houses in L’Hermitage (named for a religious establishment in the village which no longer existed). The clear light in this pre-Impressionist work, with its white and off-white houses and large patches of greenery, shows the influence of both Corot and Courbet. The planting of crops almost vertically, from top to bottom, on the hillside, contributes to the firm geometric structure of the composition. With a bold, sure hand, the artist depicted the golden grasses growing by the sides of the road. Convincingly observed even though lacking in detail, the work is painted in broad bands, ribbons, and daubs of unmodulated color, with stiff loaded brushes. The two featureless women are not laborers. They are dressed as middle-class women enjoying a leisurely walk in the country. One wears a wide-brimmed hat, and the other carries a parasol against the sun. The canvas is almost four feet wide, rather large to set up out of doors in the middle of a road on a hillside, and it must have been painted at least in part in the studio. It could have been preceded by an oil sketch or a drawing which has not survived, since we know that Pissarro’s working methods were deliberate. The beautiful landscape he depicted here has long since been obscured by extensive suburban and industrial development.
Related Works:Jalais Hill, Pontoise is one of a group of important, relatively early works which, taken together, offer a vivid sense of place. In L' Hermitage at Pontoise (ca. 1867, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 78.2514.67), the houses may seem to be placed at random, but their locations along a road descending into the center of the village was accurate. Pontoise (1867, National Gallery, Prague, O 3197), signed and dated 1867, which Pissarro also exhibited at the Salon of 1868, and L’Hermitage near Pontoise (1867, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, 3119) show the valley floor with flat land and orderly, carefully tended vegetable gardens in the foreground. A fifth canvas (ca. 1867, Fondation Rau pour le Tiers Monde, Zürich) focuses on a cluster of houses. Each of the five presents the scenery from a different approach or distance.
Katharine Baetjer 2022
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right): C. Pissarro / 1867
the artist, Paris (1867–d. 1903); his widow, Mme Camille (Julie Vellay) Pissarro, Paris (from 1904); their son, Paul-Émile Pissarro, Lyons-la-Forêt, France (sold for Fr 100,000 to Heinemann); [Heinemann Gallery, New York, by 1927–29; stock no. 18381, sold on January 15, 1929, for $7,500, to Holston]; [William H. Holston Gallery, New York, 1929; sold to Osborn]; William Church Osborn, New York (1929–51)
Paris. Salon. May 1–June 20, 1868, no. 2015 (as "La côte de Jallais").
Le Havre. location unknown. "Exposition maritime internationale," July 2–November 15, 1868, no. 794 (possibly this picture) [see Snollaerts 2005].
Paris. Galerie Manzi, Joyant. "Exposition rétrospective d'œuvres de Camille Pissarro (1830–1903)," January 26–February 14, 1914, no. 5 (as "La Côte du Jalet: Pontoise").
City Art Museum of Saint Louis. "French Impressionists from 1860–1880," April 17–May 16, 1934, no catalogue?
Art Institute of Chicago. "A Century of Progress," June 1–November 1, 1934, no. 260 (as "View at Pontoise," lent by William Church Osborn).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "French Painting from David to Toulouse-Lautrec," February 6–March 26, 1941, no. 96 (as "View at Pontoise—La côte du Jallais," lent by William Church Osborn).
New York. Wildenstein. "Camille Pissarro: His Place in Art," October 24–November 24, 1945, no. 2 (lent by William Church Osborn).
Toledo Museum of Art. "The Spirit of Modern France: An Essay on Painting in Society, 1745–1946," November–December 1946, no. 46 (lent by William Church Osborn).
Art Gallery of Toronto. "The Spirit of Modern France: An Essay on Painting in Society, 1745–1946," January–February 1947, no. 46 (lent by William Church Osborn).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 14, 1970–June 1, 1971, no. 372 (as "Jallais Hill, Pontoise [La côte du Jallais, Pontoise]").
Paris. Grand Palais. "Centenaire de l'impressionnisme," September 21–November 24, 1974, no. 33.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Impressionist Epoch," December 12, 1974–February 10, 1975, no. 33.
New York. Jewish Museum. "The Emergence of Jewish Artists in Nineteenth-Century Europe," November 18, 2001–March 17, 2002, no. 62.
New York. Museum of Modern Art. "Pioneering Modern Painting: Cézanne & Pissarro 1865–1885," June 26–September 12, 2005, no. 90.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Pioneering Modern Painting: Cézanne & Pissarro 1865–1885," October 20, 2005–January 16, 2006, no. 90.
Paris. Musée d'Orsay. "Pioneering Modern Painting: Cézanne & Pissarro 1865–1885," February 27–May 28, 2006, no. 90.
Baltimore Museum of Art. "Pissarro: Creating the Impressionist Landscape," February 11–May 13, 2007, no. 10 (as "Côte des Jalais, Pontoise 'Jallais Hill, Pontoise'").
Milwaukee Art Museum. "Pissarro: Creating the Impressionist Landscape," June 10–September 9, 2007, no. 10.
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. "Pissarro: Creating the Impressionist Landscape," October 7, 2007–January 6, 2008, no. 10.
THIS WORK MAY NOT BE LENT.
Odilon Redon. "Salon de 1868." La Gironde (June 9, 1868) [reprinted in Robert Coustet, "Critiques d'art, Salon de 1868," Bordeaux, p. 57, ill.].
Emile Zola. "Les naturalistes." L'événement illustré (May 19, 1868) [reprinted in Jean-Paul Bouillon, "Emile Zola, le bon combat: De Courbet aux impressionnistes," Paris, 1974, p. 109].
Léon Billot. "Exposition des Beaux-arts, paysage et animaux." Journal du Havre (September 25, 1868) [possibly this picture; see Ref. Snollaerts 2005].
[Jules] Castagnary. "Salon de 1868 (6e article)." Le Siècle (May 29, 1868), p. 1, notes that it attracted attention at the Salon, though it was hung too high.
Georges Rivière. "L'Exposition des impressionnistes." L'Impressionniste no. 2 (April 14, 1877) [reprinted in Barbara Ehrlich White, "Impressionism in Perspective," Englewood Cliffs, 1978, p. 11, fig. 5], discusses the two women in the bend in the road.
Maurice Hamel. "Camille Pissarro: Exposition rétrospective de ses œuvres." Les Arts no. 147 (March 1914), p. 26, mentions that it was in the 1914 Galerie Manzi-Joyant show.
Roger Allard. "Les Arts plastiques." Les Écrits français 2 (March 5, 1914), p. 65.
Art News 26 (October 22, 1927), ill. p. 10.
Art News 27 (March 9, 1929), p. 26, ill., notes that this is a rare early large work of the artist and that it was sold to a New York collector [Osborn] by the William H. Holston Gallery.
Charles Kunstler. Camille Pissarro. Paris, 1930, fig. 1.
Ludovic R. Pissarro. Letter to William Church Osborn. December 31, 1930, states that the correct title is "La côte du Jalet Pontoise".
C. J. Bulliet. 1934 Art Masterpieces in a Century of Progress Fine Arts Exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago, 1934, unpaginated, no. 20, ill.
Ludovic Rodo Pissarro and Lionello Venturi. Camille Pissarro, son art—son œuvre. reprint ed. 1989. Paris, 1939, vol. 1, pp. 20, 85, no. 55; vol. 2, pl. 10, no. 55.
Lionello Venturi. Impressionists and Symbolists. Vol. 2, New York, 1950, pp. 69–70, fig. 63, mentions that it is the "work of an experienced painter who is considerably more traditional than Monet"; remarks that the volume of the hill is inspired by Courbet and the wall surfaces of the houses are painted in the manner of Corot.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 78.
Jean Leymarie. Impressionism. Lausanne, 1955, pp. 68, 71, 73, ill.
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 3, XIX–XX Centuries. New York, 1967, pp. 15–16, ill., remark that this is the chief work of Pissarro's earliest, pre-Impressionist style; mention the influence of Manet, Corot, and Courbet.
Charles Theodore Price. "Naturalism and Convention in the Painting of Charles-François Daubigny." PhD diss., Yale University, 1967, pp. 207, 209, discusses the similarities and differences between this composition and Daubigny's "Landscape near Pontoise" (Kunsthalle, Bremen).
Kermit Swiler Champa. Studies in Early Impressionism. New Haven, 1973, pp. 75–77, fig. 107, discusses the four paintings of the Hermitage at Pontoise, 1867–68, as a true series (P&V nos. 55–58); remarks that the MMA work recalls Courbet and Daubigny, but differs in brushwork and tonality.
Everett Fahy inThe Wrightsman Collection. Vol. 5, Paintings, Drawings. [New York], 1973, p. 150, notes a resemblance to Corot's early Roman style in the use of "strong color, solid brush strokes, and cubic forms".
Alfred Werner. "Camille Pissarro: Humble and Colossal." American Artist 37 (July 1973), pp. 22–23, ill. (color).
Charles S. Moffett inImpressionism: A Centenary Exhibition. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1974, pp. 171–75, no. 33, ill. (color, overall and detail) [French ed., "Centenaire de l'impressionnisme," Paris], notes that although it is a pre-Impressionist work, it has many Impressionist characteristics, including the clear light that does not reveal much precise detail, the faceless figures on the road, and the broad treatment of the grasses.
Ralph E. Shikes and Paula Harper. Pissarro: His Life and Work. New York, 1980, pp. 66, 73, 75, 78, ill. (color), note that when this painting was exhibited in the Salon of 1868, it received critical praise from Castagnary, Astruc, Zola, Jean Ravenal, and Odilon Redon.
Anne Schirrmeister. Camille Pissarro. New York, 1982, pp. 7–8, 11, colorpl. 2, remarks that the two women are wearing fashionable, possibly Parisian, dresses, indicating that they are the wives or daughters of Pontoise's industrialists or merchants.
Prof. Chuji Ikegami inRetrospective Camille Pissarro. Exh. cat., Isetan Museum of Art. [Tokyo], 1984, pp. 20–21.
Christopher Lloyd inRetrospective Camille Pissarro. Exh. cat., Isetan Museum of Art. [Tokyo], 1984, pp. 128, 131, 134, 141, under nos. 12, 24, 39, 69.
Gary Tinterow et al. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 8, Modern Europe. New York, 1987, pp. 8, 44, colorpl. 26.
Richard R. Brettell with Joachim Pissarro. Pissarro and Pontoise: The Painter in a Landscape. New Haven, 1990, pp. 105, 122, 126, 137–38, colorpls. 95, 116 (overall and detail).
Peter Galassi. Corot in Italy: Open-Air Painting and the Classical-Landscape Tradition. New Haven, 1991, p. 214, fig. 270, compares it to Corot's "Volterra, View Toward the Fortress" of 1834 (Musée du Louvre, Paris).
Christopher Lloyd inAlfred Sisley. Ed. Mary Anne Stevens. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London. New Haven, 1992, p. 160 [French ed., "Sisley," Paris, p. 168], relates the composition to Sisley's "The Watering Place at Marly-le-Roi" (private collection, Switzerland).
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 438, ill.
Christopher Lloyd inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 24, New York, 1996, p. 879.
Dianne W. Pitman. Bazille: Purity, Pose, and Painting in the 1860s. University Park, Pa., 1998, p. 122, fig. 74, notes its influence on Bazille's "View of the Village" of 1868 (Musée Fabre, Montpellier).
Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts in Joachim Pissarro and Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts. Pissarro: Critical Catalogue of Paintings. Milan, 2005, vol. 1, pp. 361, 370, 378, 383–85, 399, 402, 406, 411, 417, 422–23, 425; vol. 2, pp. 108–9, no. 116, ill. (color); vol. 3, pp. 953, 956.
Joachim Pissarro. Pioneering Modern Painting: Cézanne & Pissarro 1865–1885. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art. New York, 2005, pp. 59, 187, colorpl. 90.
Joachim Pissarro in Joachim Pissarro and Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts. Pissarro: Critical Catalogue of Paintings. Milan, 2005, vol. 1, pp. 64–65, 74, ill. (color detail).
Alexia de Buffévent in Joachim Pissarro and Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts. Pissarro: Critical Catalogue of Paintings. Milan, 2005, vol. 1, pp. 124–25.
Mary Morton in Mary Morton and Charlotte Eyerman. Courbet and the Modern Landscape. Exh. cat., J. Paul Getty Museum. Los Angeles, 2006, p. 14.
Charlotte Eyerman in Mary Morton and Charlotte Eyerman. Courbet and the Modern Landscape. Exh. cat., J. Paul Getty Museum. Los Angeles, 2006, p. 29.
Dominique de Font-Réaulx in Mary Morton and Charlotte Eyerman. Courbet and the Modern Landscape. Exh. cat., J. Paul Getty Museum. Los Angeles, 2006, p. 55, fig. 33 (color).
Katherine Rothkopf. Pissarro: Creating the Impressionist Landscape. Exh. cat., Baltimore Museum of Art. London, 2006, pp. 52, 66 n. 18, p. 92, no. 10, ill. pp. 14, 70–71, 93 (color, overall and detail), notes that Pissarro made seven Jalais Hill pictures, and that this is one of three in which "the hillside and surrounding fields play a larger role".
Christopher Lloyd in Katherine Rothkopf. Pissarro: Creating the Impressionist Landscape. Exh. cat., Baltimore Museum of Art. London, 2006, p. 27.
Gülru Çakmak in Katherine Rothkopf. Pissarro: Creating the Impressionist Landscape. Exh. cat., Baltimore Museum of Art. London, 2006, pp. 180, 203.
Belinda Thomson inTurner e gli impressionisti: La grande storia del paesaggio moderno in Europa. Ed. Marco Goldin. Exh. cat., Museo di Santa Giulia, Brescia. Treviso, 2006, p. 190, ill.
Lin Arison in Lin Arison and Neil Folberg. Travels with Van Gogh and the Impressionists: Discovering the Connections. New York, 2007, p. 63, ill. pp. 68, 260 (color).
Laurence des Cars inGustave Courbet. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2008, p. 237, fig. 1 (color) [French ed., Paris, 2007].
Christine I. Oaklander. "Jonathan Sturges, W. H. Osborn, and William Church Osborn: A Chapter in American Art Patronage." Metropolitan Museum Journal 43 (2008), pp. 188–89, 191, figs. 29 (color), 30 (installation photograph).
Klaus Herding inCourbet: A Dream of Modern Art. Ed. Klaus Herding and Max Hollein. Exh. cat., Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. Ostfildern, 2010, p. 188, under no. 47, compares it to Courbet's "The Valley of Ornans" of 1858 (Saint Louis Art Museum).
Dorothee Hansen and Henrike Holsing. Vom Klassizismus zum Kubismus: Bestandskatalog der französischen Malerei in der Kunsthalle Bremen. Munich, 2011, pp. 222–23 n. 10, ill.
Richard R. Brettell. Pissarro's People. Exh. cat., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Mass. San Francisco, 2011, pp. 20–22, fig. 4 (color detail), suggests that the figures depicted at center are Pissarro's wife, Julie, dressed in white and carrying a parasol, and her sister or a friend; compares them to the two figures at center in his "The Hermitage at Pontoise" (ca. 1867, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York).
Richard Kendall inNineteenth-Century European Paintings at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Ed. Sarah Lees. Williamstown, Mass., 2012, vol. 2, pp. 580, 582 n. 3, under no. 245.
Christopher Lloyd. Paul Cézanne: Drawings and Watercolors. Los Angeles, 2015, pp. 76–77, discusses Zola's writing on the painting.
Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, pp. 438, 445, no. 361, ill. pp. 370, 438 (color).
Maite van Dijk inDaubigny, Monet, Van Gogh: Impressions of Landscape. Exh. cat., Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati. Edinburgh, 2016, p. 54, fig. 42 (color), as "Côte du Jallais, Pontoise".
Daniel Marchesseau inPaul Cezanne: Le chant de la terre. Ed. Daniel Marchesseau. Exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Martigny, 2017, ill. p. 164 (color).
Linda Whiteley inCamille Pissarro: Father of Impressionism. Exh. cat., Ashmolean Museum. Oxford, 2022, pp. 19–20, fig. 11 (color).
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