La Cueillette des pois (Harvesting peas), c. 1880
Michel de l’Haye, Paris.
Paul Durand-Ruel, acquired from the above on 6 Sept. 1900 (inv. no. 6046 & photo no. 2627).
Paul Cassirer, Berlin, on consignment from the above in 1912.
L. Blumenreich, acquired from the above on 31 July 1917.
Galerie Max Kaganovitch, Paris, circa 1936.
Private Collection, UK, after 1970.
L.R. Pissarro and L. Venturi, Camille Pissarro. Son art – Son oeuvre, Paris, 1939 (repub., San Francisco, 1989), vol. I, p. 153, no. 518; vol. II (illus. p. 106).
Thorold, The Letters of Lucien to Camille Pissarro (1883 – 1903), Cambridge, 1993, p. 261.
Pissarro and C. Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro: Critical Catalogue of Paintings, Paris, 2005, vol. II, p. 425, no. 637 (illus.)
Berlin, Paul Cassirer Gallerie, Camille Pissarro, March 1914, no. 25.
Paris, Galerie Max Kaganovitch, Œuvres choisies des XIXe et XXe siècles, May – June 1938, no. 30.
La Cueillette des pois addresses one of the themes for which Camille Pissarro was best known, that of peasants in the open fields of Pontoise and Éragny in the Northwestern suburbs of Paris. Pissarro, like his Realist forebears Courbet and Millet, had a deep respect for the rural working class, and this is readily apparent in his sensitive and sympathetic paintings. In contrast to Millet, however, who depicted the harvest as a time of hard labour, Pissarro represented rural peasants in the fields as healthy, even joyous in their work. As Richard Brettell noted: ‘Pissarro was perhaps the first great painter of French rural life who actually revealed a kind of relaxed beauty in fieldwork…his politically inflected anarchist world gives rural labour a primacy in its representation of work, but that work is productive and fulfilling.’ Pissarro even compared the work of painting to the work of harvesting, writing to his son Lucien ‘When you feel a certain thing, you have to do it at whatever cost. You can be sure that you will reap the rewards.’
Around 1880 at the time he painted La Cueillette des pois, and with the first full decade of Impressionism drawing to a close, Pissarro embarked on an intensive period of artistic exploration. His brushwork began evolving into a densely layered collection of small touches of colour, prefiguring his experimentations with Pointillism later in the decade. While in earlier paintings of harvesters Pissarro had depicted the working women as small, colourful dashes in the distant landscape, in the 1880s these figures become more central to the composition, and more classical in their solidity and weightiness. Their long skirts blend into the tall grass while their red and orange head scarfs stand out against the verdant landscape. La Cueillette des pois – and similar compositions in gouache and black chalk, as well as in oil – was presumably painted near Pissarro’s home in Pontoise, while later harvest scenes represent Éragny, where the Pissarro family moved in April 1884.