Still life with Peonies and Mock Orange, 1877

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)

  • Oil on Canvas, 81 x 64 cm
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Simple cottage garden flowers were the preferred subject of the impressionists’ flower still lifes. Here Camille Pissarro has used mock orange, grass, honeysuckle, irises and peonies, his wife’s favourite flowers, placing the bouquet loosely in a vase.

The painting is probably the product of a competition between Pissarro and his painter friend Paul Cézanne. From 1872 the two artists lived and worked in the vicinity of Paris – Pissarro in Pontoise and Cézanne in Auvers-sur-Oise. In 1873 they entered into a ‘dialogue’ in the form of landscapes and flower still lifes. When one artist produced a painting, the other endeavoured to better this.

More information about "Still life with Peonies and Mock Orange"

Flower still life

Although Pisarro mainly painted landscapes, he was also interested in flower still lifes. Other contemporaries also developed an interest in this undervalued genre. They regarded the flower still life as an honest subject, taken directly from nature, which presented an interesting challenge for painters endeavouring to capture light and colour. Flower paintings understandably gained in popularity during the age of Realism and Impressionism. In addition to Pisarro and Cézanne, other artists who ventured to produce flower still lifes included Edouard Manet, Adolphe MonticelliVincent van Gogh and even the symbolist Odilon Redon.

Painted in two sessions

Pissarro seems to have painted this bouquet in two sessions. In the foreground he painted over the originally green ground in red paint; portions of the background and the bouquet have also been painted over. Apparently Pissarro initially regarded the still life as finished, for he had signed the work; his signature is partially visible under the red paint in the foreground.

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