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  • Writer's pictureAnn Saul

Pissarro: Winter Snow

Rue de Gisors, Effect of Snow, Pontoise, 1873, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, PDRS 284

It was a cold day, and Pissarro did not go far to set up his easel. He was living just around the corner, down the narrow street to the right of the two-wheeled cart. It is hard to tell if this is morning or evening with the thick grey clouds overhead threatening new snow.

Instead of idyllic white snow drifts, Pissarro portrays the reality of snow in the city, white flakes turned gray from traffic and people working to clear a path. The pale pinks of the buildings fade into the warm gray of the muddy snow depicted with tiny dabs of paint. The soft warm palette is enlivened by the tall red chimney in the center. Its brightness is emphasized by a small patch of green in the lower left corner, apparently a cover over a wagon. These small bright patches of complementary color create a diagonal which reflects that of the gables of the corner building, creating unity. Depite the warm colors, the painting portrays the icy chill in the air.

Rue de Gisors has hardly changed at all since Pissarro painted it. The pink building on the corner actually has three stories and no dormer windows, and the tall angled roof with the red chimney does not seem nearly as tall as Pissarro portrayed it. If he took artistic license with the architecture in this case, it would not be the first time.

Rue de Gisors, Author’s photo, c. 2005

This painting seems to foreshadow paintings Pissarro would make 25 years later of the Boulevard Montmartre in Paris. While the buildings on Rue Gisors are not nearly as grand as the Haussmannian architecture on Boulevard Montmartre, the rows of windows and chimney pots are similar, the scene is just as lively, and the well-traveled snow is just as gray.

Boulevard Montmartre, Winter Morning, 1897, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York PDRS 1160


Ashmolean Museum, Oxford


Open 18 February – 12 June 2022

This major exhibition, of works drawn from the Ashmolean’s collections as well as international loans, will span Pissarro’s entire career.

Camille Pissarro (1830–1903) is one of the most celebrated artists of nineteenth-century France and a central figure in Impressionism. Considered a father-figure to many in the movement, his work was enormously influential for many artists, including Claude Monet and Paul Cézanne. It opens in spring 2022.

I am honored that my latest book, Abstract Pissarro, was included in a review by David Carrier for Hyperallergic

Abstract Pissarro is available online at Bookshop, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

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