Frits Thaulow was in the vanguard of artists who adapted and promoted the dynamic approach to landscape painting pioneered by French Realists and Impressionists in the 1860s and 1870s. Thaulow’s naturalistic depictions of the countryside in his native Norway and in France brought together progressive tendencies in Norwegian and French art. He also bridged artistic communities in the two countries through the personal and professional connections he created and fostered among others. Over the course of his career, Thaulow travelled and exhibited widely in Europe and the United States, forming a large circle of artist friends whose work he encouraged and collected. His insider status in the elite art world is encapsulated by the fact that he was related by marriage to both Paul Gauguin and Edvard Munch.
In the early 1870s, Thaulow studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, with the Danish marine painter Carl Frederik Sørensen (1818–1879), and with the Norwegian landscapist Hans Gude (1825–1903). In 1874, he traveled to Paris, where he spent considerable time up to 1879, coinciding with the years of the early Impressionist movement. In the summer of 1879, Thaulow pivoted back to Scandinavia. The artist’s return to his roots was inaugurated by a stay with his compatriot Christian Krohg at Skagen, a village on the Danish coast that hosted an influential artists’ colony that was an incubator for innovative Nordic painting (see The Met 2020.84.3
). During the next thirteen years, Thaulow was essential to the growth of Norway’s artistic institutions and to the development of new and direct interpretations of nature inspired by French exemplars of plein-air
painting (painting outdoors before the motif). He continued to exhibit and spend time in France, and, on the heels of successful showings at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889 and at the Salon du Champs de Mars in 1890 and 1891, he moved permanently to France in 1892. Here, his fortunes blossomed, as he trained his eyes on the northern French landscape and the Channel coast. It was at this time that he cemented friendships with luminaries such as Claude Monet and Auguste Rodin.The Site:
Vidar Poulsson formerly identified this painting with a picture exhibited at the Grafton Galleries in London in 1908 under the title Le Village - Montreuil
and dated about 1894 (Poulsson 1994). Montreuil-sur-Mer (sometimes simply called Montreuil) lies on the river Canche at the northern tip of France, a locale that Thaulow frequented. However, Poulsson noted that the view does not resemble Montreuil (Poulsson 2006), and, when the present work came to auction in 2020, he pinpointed the site as the village of Picquigny, which lies some fifty miles to the south, along the river Somme near Amiens (see Flatmo 2020). The street in the middle distance is the rue du Guindal, also called le Guindal. A woman with a white cap and a basket stands on the road, conversing with a man wearing a gray hat and carrying a walking stick. The word “Hôtel” is visible on the façade of one building, and below it may be the phrase “des Voyageurs.” The walls of the medieval château de Picquigny, the town’s main landmark, are just visible through the trees at the upper left. To the right is the Tour Saint Jean, the bell tower of the church of Saint Jean-Baptiste. The short, pyramidal roof depicted in the painting was built after the eighteenth-century cupola and campanile were destroyed in a storm on the night of December 6, 1859. About a century later, the Tour Saint-Jean was damaged by bombardments during World War II, and the entire building was demolished in the 1950s. The small copse on the right bank of the river is the edge of an area known as l’Abreuvoir
(a watering place for livestock). Thaulow placed his easel on a section of the curving riverbank that had been built up during the construction of the nearby railroad tracks and bridge, creating an elevated vantage point with a view over the water (Delory 2021). The yellow, brown, and orange tints to the foliage indicate that the season is autumn.The Painting Campaign:
Thaulow traveled to Picquigny on a painting expedition that lasted from late October to November 11, 1899, when he returned to his studio in Paris. The artist hoped to visit Norway during this period, but in a letter to the author Amalie Skram on November 10, he wrote, “I do not have time . . . and my dealers give me good money to stay [in France] and work” (quoted in Poulsson 2006, p. 114). Thaulow was then under contract with Isidore Montaignac, who was affiliated with Georges Petit, one of the leading galleries in Paris, which that summer had hosted a major exhibition of work by Thaulow, Monet, and Alfred Sisley. According to Montaignac, under the terms of their agreement, Thaulow committed to producing a certain number of paintings per year, which his dealers had the exclusive right to market.
Thaulow’s excursion to Picquigny nearly derailed at the outset. According to the period press, residents of the small village suspected that the tall, blond stranger speaking accented French was a Prussian spy. He had to be “rescued” by the intervention of a British painter who recognized and vouched for him. Despite this inauspicious start, the painting campaign seems to have yielded a number of works, including one now in the Musée de Reims and a variant of it in a private collection (see Poulsson 1994, p. 136 and Poulsson 2006, p. 114). Two additional paintings titled Péquigny
appear in the Catalogue des Tableaux provenant de l’atelier Frits Thaulow
, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, May 6–7, 1907, nos. 16 and 36.
Thaulow was known for his dedication to painting outdoors, but, at this stage in his career, he was inclined to work in his studio and from memory. It is not yet known to what extent this scene and his other views of Picquigny were painted on site, and the degree to which they were worked up later. Close examination shows that Picquigny
was painted in at least three sessions, with enough time for the paint to set in between them. Due to the size of the present canvas, Poulsson suggests that Thaulow may have intended to exhibit it at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900, where the artist served as Norwegian commissioner. However, the roster of paintings that he displayed is not clear. Only two paintings are listed in the exhibition catalogue, but a review mentions additional works by Thaulow, including one called Au bord de la Somme
.Composition and Style:
At Le Guindal, the river courses quickly and is full of eddies. These conditions were ideally suited to Thaulow, who, with the encouragement of Montaignac, had cultivated a reputation for capturing the movement of water. Rural riverscapes were the foundation of the artist’s repertoire. Having spent much of the summer of 1899 in Venice, amidst the dazzling light and color of the canals, he was primed to turn fresh eyes on the Somme. In this scene, he adopted one of his trademark compositional strategies, positioning the viewer slightly above and in the middle of the river, and employing a foreshortened perspective that amplifies the proximity of the water. This method emphasizes the swirling current and the artist’s skill in evoking its ever-changing colors, reflections, and illumination. Similar views of the river around Picquigny may be seen in period photographic postcards (see fig. 1 above).
Thaulow’s sensitive and detailed portrayal of nature, with its rich, dark tones and muted light, is rooted in the tradition of northern Romantic landscape painting, and especially the work of Norwegian predecessors such as Johan Christian Dahl and Thomas Fearnley (see The Met 2009.400.32
). In an interview in 1900, Thaulow acknowledged their "enduring influence" on his generation of artists. At the same time, Thaulow’s painting owes much to contemporary French art and particularly to the landscapes of Pissarro (see The Met 51.30.2
) and the riverscapes of Monet (see The Met 56.135.4
). In its skillful adaption and synthesis of different stylistic inspirations, Picquigny exemplifies the distinctive sensibility that Thaulow brought to the depiction of nature.
Alison Hokanson 2021
 I am grateful to Frank Claustrat for his insights into the inscription. I have not yet been able to determine if there was a hotel by that name in Picquigny around 1900.
 J. P. Delory, “Histoire de Picquigny: Les édifices religieux,” http://jpdelory.e-monsite.com/pages/picquigny-ancien/les-edifices-religieux.html. I am indebted to M. Delory for his help identifying the sites and his description of the river.
 See the chronology by Frank Claustrat in Frits Thaulow: Paysagiste par nature
, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen, 2016, pp. 161–81.
 Osborne, “Hos Fritz Thaulow Konsthandlare,” Dagens Nyheter
(November 15, 1906), transcribed in Poulsson 2006, pp. 175–77.
 Joinville, “Nos échos,” Le Journal: Quotidien, Littéraire, Artistique, et Politique
(November 4, 1899), p. 1.
 Eugène Allard and Louis Vauxcelles, “M. Fritz Thaulow,” Le Figaro
(November 19, 1900), p. 5.
 Exposition Universelle de 1900: Catalogue illustré officiel
, Paris, 1900, nos. 107–8 (under "Norvège: Peintures et dessins"); Léon Greder, Loisirs d’art
, Paris, 1901, p. 139.
 Vidar Poulsson, Frits Thaulow
, Oslo, 1992, p. 100.
 Allard and Vauxcelles 1900 (see note 6).