In his later years, Pissarro painted several series of paintings based upon views of Paris. Each series was dedicated to a specific location in the city painted at various times of the day and during different seasons and weather conditions. This wintry scene, probably created in the early months of 1902, is part of a series he painted in his rented apartment at place Dauphine on the Île de la Cité.
We are looking directly west along the Seine. The Pont des Arts is in the middle distance and the Louvre is the large building on the right. On the left, Pissarro has included part of the square du Vert-Galant, a small public park named in honour of Henri IV, which contained a nineteenth-century equestrian statue of him. The picture shows Pissarro’s fascination with transient atmospheric effects, but he has contained these within a carefully structured composition.
In his later years, Pissarro returned to Paris to paint views of the city, such as The Boulevard Montmartre at Night. His decision to concentrate on city views may have been influenced by his health (he was by then in his sixties), particularly the condition of his eyes, which made painting outdoors increasingly difficult. He produced several series, each dedicated to a specific location in Paris painted at various times of day and during different seasons and weather conditions.
Towards the end of 1900 he moved into a rented apartment at 28 place Dauphine, where he stayed during three extended visits he made to the city before his death in November 1903. Located at the western tip of the Île de la Cité, the apartment offered extensive views of both banks of the river Seine, which specifically included important features of seventeenth-century Paris. From his window, Pissarro could look over the Hôtel de la Monnaie and the dome of the Institut de France on the Left Bank. Directly in front, as he looked down, he could see the square du Vert-Galant, a small public park named in honour of Henri IV, the ‘green gallant’, which contained a nineteenth-century equestrian statue of him. The Pont des Arts and the Pont du Louvre were also directly ahead. To his right, Pissarro could see the Pont Neuf and the Samaritaine department store on the Right Bank, with the Louvre in the distance. The 60 or so views Pissarro painted from the apartment form the largest group of his paintings devoted to just one urban location.
This picture was probably painted in the early months of 1902, during Pissarro’s second stay at the place Dauphine, when he painted the second of what he referred to as his ‘winter series’. All the 26 pictures he painted that winter show the view looking towards the right bank of the Seine or, as here, looking directly west along the river. This painting shows the Pont des Arts and, just beyond it, the Louvre on the right. The railings in the foreground mark the edge of the square du Vert-Galant. The statue of Henri IV cannot be seen – it is just out of frame on the left – but Pissarro does include some of its base.
Pissarro’s interest in atmospheric effects is particularly evident here, as the horizon disappears in the snow or mist. Except for a few pale colour highlights (for example, the dabs of pale creamy yellow and reddish-brown on the boats), the painting mostly consists of white and grey tones, with very slight hints of green, blue and yellow, particularly in the river. The use of impasto white paint in some areas suggests the almost tactile presence of the snow – for example, as it clings to the branches of the trees and to the railings. Despite the swift and clearly visible brushwork and extensive use of white, Pissarro has used the buildings and trees to give the picture structure and legibility. This is a painting of counterbalanced forces, as Pissarro’s fascination with transient atmospheric effects is tempered by his commitment to maintaining pictorial structure. Our awareness of the picture’s flat surface (for example, in the sky and river) is counteracted by the perspectival depth created by the architecture. Vertical and horizontal structures balance each other, as do straight lines and curves.
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