Van Gogh Museum acquires two works by Pissarro

Two unique pointillist works by Camille Pissarro complement the collection

20 April 2011

The Van Gogh Museum has enriched its collection with the purchase of two works by Camille Pissarro (1831-1903): the painting The haymaking, Éragny (1887) and the gouache Cowgirl in morning sun (1887). Axel Rüger, Director of the Van Gogh Museum, comments: “Pissarro’s pointillist work is an important and representative addition to our museum’s modest collection of pointillist art. This work embodies a major and thus far missing link in Van Gogh’s experiments with colour and technique from his Paris period, which we can now show to the public. Acquiring pointillist pieces like these was a key priority in our collection plan.” The paintings will be on display on the first floor of the Rietveld building from 20 April and were bought with financial support from the BankGiro Loterij, the Vereniging Rembrandt and its Claude Monet Fund and the VSBfonds.

Camille Pissarro (1831-1903), The haymaking, Éragny (1887)

The haymaking, Éragny
The haymaking, Éragny captures the bustling haying season in rural Éragny, where Pissarro lived with his family from 1884 until his death in 1903. The canvas clearly shows how the artist used his personal version of pointillism to enhance the colour effects and luminosity of his work. From a distance, Pissarro’s colour palette, applied in systematic dots and dabs, form a unity and increase the painting’s light and colour intensity.

Dated August 1887, this work coincides with Van Gogh’s time in Paris. During this period, which spanned from 1886 to 1887, Van Gogh’s style changed radically. Inspired by French modern art, he started to experiment freely with bright colours and new painting techniques. It was the experienced Pissarro in particular, whom Van Gogh respectfully called ‘père Pissarro’, that was of great significance in extending Van Gogh’s use of colour, as well as his drive to experiment with pointillist style painting. The haymaking, Éragny’s rural subject matter is said to have appealed greatly to Van Gogh and was well suited to his own artistic programme. As the canvas is in excellent condition, the convincing colour effects, a quality Vincent van Gogh particularly admired in Pissarro’s work, have lost little of their power. Struck by the painting’s beauty, Vincent’s brother Theo bought it off Pissarro on 8 August 1887 for the art dealers Boussod & Valadon in Paris.

Camille Pissarro (1831-1903), Cowgirl in morning sun (1887)

Cowgirl in morning sun

The gouache also depicts a rural scene: a pasture with a grazing cow herded by a woman. Between early 1886 and the summer of 1888, Pissarro applied his pointillist technique with conviction using various materials. In this gouache, he convincingly used pointillé to create a sense of light around the woman. The use of complementary colours, such as the reddish brown paint with which Pissarro signed the painting on a green background, is striking. With this work, the Van Gogh Museum has acquired a beautiful example of Pointillism in its purest form.

Perfect addition to the collection
One of the reasons why the purchase of The haymaking, Éragny is so unique is because Pissarro’s pointillist work is very rare. In the period between the summer of 1886 and the end of 1887, he only created fifteen comparable pointillist paintings. The purchase is especially valuable, also on a national level, since the Dutch State’s art collection did not have a similar representation of Pissarro before.

“The unique combination of factors – the importance of such a work for our understanding of Van Gogh’s experiments with colour and technique during his Paris period; the extreme rarity of the piece; the painting’s subject matter; its aesthetic appeal; the fact that it is in mint condition; the historical connection to Theo van Gogh – make The haymaking, Éragny the perfect addition to our collection”, says Axel Rüger.

Other works purchased by the Van Gogh Museum over the past five years are featured in Nieuwe aanwinsten, Werken op papier (“New Acquisitions, Works on Paper”), with a selection of 50 drawings and illustrations the museum acquired to create insight into Van Gogh’s life and work, including works by Gustave Doré, Jean-Francois Millet, Anton Mauve and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.

The pictures were bought with financial support from the BankGiro Loterij, the Vereniging Rembrandt and its Claude Monet Fund and the VSBfonds. These organisations promote the creation of a public art collection in the Netherlands. With partial support from these organisations, the Van Gogh Museum was able to purchase Woman on the Champs-Élysées by Night (c. 1891) by Louis Anquetin, Pierre Bonnards’ Montmartre in the rain (1897) and The Seine at Nanterre by Maurice de Vlaminck (c. 1906-1907) in the past years.

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