Pissarro’s paintings of the mid-1870s are largely devoted to the fields and roads near his home in Pontoise. Here, he turned to a more urban subject, of the type favored by colleagues such as Monet and Renoir: the town’s public garden. The view across the Montmorency plain toward Paris may be glimpsed at left, beyond the spire of Pontoise's Notre-Dame church. But rather than emphasizing the vista, Pissarro focused on the park’s terraces, populated by well-dressed bourgeois and their children. He exhibited a similar scene, painted the year previously (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg), at the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874.
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Title:The Public Garden at Pontoise
Artist:Camille Pissarro (French, Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas 1830–1903 Paris)
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:23 5/8 x 28 3/4 in. (60 x 73 cm)
Credit Line:Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Murray, 1964
Pontoise: For hundreds of years Pontoise had been the capital of a vast area to the north and west called the Vexin français, an unspoiled plateau much of which is still dedicated primarily to agriculture. In Pissarro’s time, the town was home to about six thousand four hundred people. The center, near a Roman road, inhabited since antiquity, occupies a fortified hill looking down over the busy Oise River. There stands the church (now cathedral) of Saint-Maclou, and nearby is the public garden, a large space, irregular in shape, with traditional paths and plantings, which, in the nineteenth century, overlooked the surrounding largely undeveloped flat landscape. (Pontoise was absorbed decades ago into what has since become a huge, heavily industrialized urban area called Clérgy-Pontoise.)
The Painting: This view of the public garden in Pontoise is unusual for its date, 1874, because Pissarro rarely painted urban subjects in his early and middle years. A low wall divides the canvas horizontally, and a leaning pine divides it vertically. Within the space defined by these two elements, there are seventeen figures: three women with their backs turned, admiring the view; a mother accompanying a child; a young girl in a hat playing with a ball; and two women, one pushing a baby carriage. There are five peasant figures, three of the four men perhaps playing a game of boules, and a woman in a blue apron and white cap. A group of three to her right are not easy to make out, but otherwise Pissarro has distinguished social class by details of costume, women and children of the town wearing formal street clothes and more simply dressed country folk. At the left, over the wall, Pissarro included the lantern atop the bell tower of Notre-Dame, the second historic church in the town. A rocky outcropping above and to the right is densely planted with flowering shrubs. Two fenced overlooks are occupied by small figures. Under a gray sky, the blooms and the gravel terrace lend a pale rosy hue to the composition overall.
A Related Work: A canvas by Pissarro dating to the previous year, 1873, describes a corner of the same public garden in sunshine (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, 3KPcэ-517). Painted predominantly in beiges, browns, and light greens, it shows a rising bank at the center with carefully pruned trees and two rows of small bushes to the left. Figures walk on paths in the middle distance, and a small girl stands at the center. Men and women, mostly seated, together with a girl holding a hoop, gather to chat in the lower right corner. They are more carefully drawn than usual, in several cases with features slightly delineated. Experts have suggested that one of the two paintings may have been included in the first Impressionist exhibition of 1874.
Katharine Baetjer 2022
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): C.Pissarro.1874
Paul Durand-Ruel (until 1891; held in escrow for the artist; sold August 25 for Fr 800 to the firm Durand-Ruel); [Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1891–1908; stock no. 1314; sold January 31 for Fr 7,000 (with "Falaises à Étretat" by Courbet) to Cassirer]; [Paul Cassirer, Berlin, 1908; sold in March to Mendelssohn]; Robert von Mendelssohn, Berlin (1908–d. 1917); by descent to his son, Francesco von Mendelssohn and/or his daughter, Eleonora von Mendelssohn, Berlin, then (from 1935) New York (by 1935–no later than May 1942); [Aram Gallery, New York, until May 8, 1942; sold for $3,000 to Rosenberg, possibly as agent for Mendelssohn]; [Paul Rosenberg, New York, 1942–44; stock no. 5181 / 298; sold November 11 to Murray]; Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Murray, New York and Honolulu (1944–64)
Paris. Galeries Durand-Ruel. "Exposition de tableaux de Monet, Pissarro, Renoir & Sisley," April 1899, no. 41 (as "Pontoise").
Berlin. Bruno and Paul Cassirer. "Schule von Fontainebleau, Französische Impressionisten, Anders Zorn, J. Nussbaum, A. Gaul, Fr. Flaum," February 24–March 31, 1900, no. 17 as "Garten in Pontoise" [see Echte and Feilchenfeldt 2011, vol. 1].
Paris. Bernheim-Jeune et fils. "Exposition d'œuvres de l'école impressionniste," April 2–25, 1903, no. 46 (as "Le Jardin," possibly this picture) [see Snollaerts 2005].
London. Grafton Galleries. "Pictures by Boudin, Cézanne, Degas, Manet...," January–February 1905, no. 212 (as "The Public Garden at Pontoise").
Berlin. Paul Cassirer. April 1906, no catalogue [see Rosenhagen 1906 and Snollaerts 2005].
Zürich. Galerie Tanner. "Ausstellung Franz. Meister des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts," April 9–30, 1929, no. 16 (possibly this picture) [see Snollaerts 2005].
New York. Carroll Carstairs. "The 1870s in France," closed December 17, 1938, unnumbered cat. (as "Jardin à Pontoise," lent anonymously).
New York. Paul Rosenberg & Co. "Masterpieces Recalled: A Loan Exhibition of 19th and 20th Century French Paintings," February 6–March 2, 1957, no. 8 (as "The Park at Pontoise," lent by Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Murray).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Paintings from Private Collections: Summer Loan Exhibition," July 1–August 20, 1961, no. 66 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Murray).
New York. Wildenstein & Co., Inc. "C. Pissarro," March 25–May 1, 1965, no. 26 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Murray).
Baltimore Museum of Art. "Pissarro: Creating the Impressionist Landscape," February 11–May 13, 2007, no. 49 (as "The Municipal Garden, Pontoise 'The Public Garden at Pontoise'").
Milwaukee Art Museum. "Pissarro: Creating the Impressionist Landscape," June 10–September 9, 2007, no. 49.
Edinburgh. National Gallery of Scotland. "Impressionist Gardens," July 31–October 17, 2010, no. 51.
Madrid. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. "Impressionist Gardens," November 16, 2010–February 13, 2011, no. 51.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence," March 12–July 29, 2018, unnumbered cat.
"Berliner Kunstausstellungen." Staatsbürger-Zeitung no. 113 (March 8, 1900) [see Echte and Feilchenfeldt 2011, vol. 1], as "Garten in Pontoise".
Camille Pissarro. Letter to Bernheim-Jeune. March 15, 1903 [published in Ref. Bailly-Herzberg 1991, p. 326, no. 2009], states that he is sending three paintings to Bernheim-Jeune, including "Jardin à l'Hermitage, Pontoise," possibly this picture.
R. M. "Petites expositions: Exposition d'Impressionnistes." Chronique des arts et de la curiosité, supplément à la Gazette des beaux-arts no. 14 (April 4, 1903), p. 111 [possibly this picture; see Ref. Snollaerts 2005].
Hans Rosenhagen. "Von Ausstellungen und Sammlungen." Die Kunst für Alle 21 (April 19, 1906), p. 357.
Julius Meier-Graefe. Impressionisten. 2nd ed. Munich, 1907, ill. p. 159.
A. Tabarant. Pissarro. London, 1925, pl. 16.
Alfred M. Frankfurter. "Panorama of a Great Decade: 'The 1870s'." Art News 37 (December 3, 1938), pp. 12–13, ill.
Ludovic Rodo Pissarro and Lionello Venturi. Camille Pissarro, son art—son œuvre. reprint ed. 1989. Paris, 1939, vol. 1, p. 116, no. 257; vol. 2, pl. 51, no. 257.
John Rewald. The History of Impressionism. New York, 1946, p. 260, ill., erroneously states that it was shown at the first Impressionist exhibition.
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. 16–18, ill., remark that its loose and free brushstroke suggests foliage and that the strolling figures are in the style of the early Impressionists, and related especially to Monet.
Anne Distel. Centenaire de l'impressionnisme. Exh. cat., Galeries nationales du Grand Palais. Paris, 1974, p. 250, suggests that this painting was included in the 1st Impressionist exhibition in 1874 as no. 139 [see Refs. Pissarro and Venturi 1939 and Snollaerts 2005].
Paul Tucker inThe New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886. Ed. Charles S. Moffett. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington. San Francisco, 1986, p. 122, tentatively identifies it as no. 139 in the first Impressionist exhibition of 1874.
Richard R. Brettell with Joachim Pissarro. Pissarro and Pontoise: The Painter in a Landscape. New Haven, 1990, pp. 49, 130, 209 n. 21, fig. 41 (color) and colorpl. 122 (detail), erroneously as in a private collection.
Janine Bailly-Herzberg. Correspondance de Camille Pissarro, 1899–1903. Vol. 5, Saint-Ouen-l'Aumône, 1991, p. 327 n. 2, identifies it as possibly one of the works Pissarro lists in a letter to Bernheim-Jeune as being sent for their exhibition of Impressionist paintings [see Ref. Pissarro 1903 and Exh. Paris 1903].
Albert Kostenevich. Hidden Treasures Revealed: Impressionist Masterpieces and Other Important French Paintings Preserved by the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Exh. cat.New York, 1995, pp. 156–58, ill., erroneously as still in a private collection, Honolulu.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 439, ill.
Ruth Berson, ed. "Documentation: Volume I, Reviews and Volume II, Exhibited Works." The New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886. San Francisco, 1996, vol. 2, p. 12, no. I-139, ill. p. 27, identifies it as no. 139 in the first Impressionist exhibition, noting, however, that Ref. Pissarro and Venturi 1939 identify the same painting as "The Municipal Garden, Pontoise" (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg) [see Ref. Snollaerts 2005].
Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts in Joachim Pissarro and Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts. Pissarro: Critical Catalogue of Paintings. Milan, 2005, vol. 1, pp. 365–67, 375, 382, 391, 394, 396; vol. 2, pp. 213, 244, 267, no. 347, ill. (color); vol. 3, pp. 953, 956, calls it "The Municipal Garden, Pontoise"; notes that Pissarro painted the same park one year earlier in a painting of the same name (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg).
Alexia de Buffévent in Joachim Pissarro and Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts. Pissarro: Critical Catalogue of Paintings. Milan, 2005, vol. 1, p. 313, states that it may have been exhibited by Bernheim-Jeune in 1903.
Katherine Rothkopf. Pissarro: Creating the Impressionist Landscape. Exh. cat., Baltimore Museum of Art. London, 2006, pp. 59, 63.
Gülru Çakmak in Katherine Rothkopf. Pissarro: Creating the Impressionist Landscape. Exh. cat., Baltimore Museum of Art. London, 2006, pp. 88, 186–89, no. 49, ill. (color, overall and detail), notes that it introduced a new theme of urban leisure in Pissarro's work; discusses its innovative approach to pictorial space, reflecting the influence of Japanese woodblock prints; suggests that it was meant to be a pendant to the work in the Hermitage.
Clare A. P. Willsdon. Impressionist Gardens. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh. London, 2010, pp. 80, 157–58, no. 51, ill. (color).
Kunstsalon Cassirer. Ed. Bernhard Echte and Walter Feilchenfeldt. Wädenswil, Zürich, 2011–16, vol. 1, pp. 260, 268, 492, as "Garten in Pontoise"; identify it among the works on view in Berlin 1900; republish Staatsbürger-Zeitung 1900.
Colta Ives. Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2018, pp. 68–69, 187, fig. 67 (color).
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