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Côte des Bœufs at L’Hermitage

Painting, 1877, 114.9×87.6 cm

Description of the artwork «Côte des Bœufs at L’Hermitage»

Côte des Bœufs at L’Hermitage is one of the greatest paintings by Camille Pissarro, which he loved very much. At his solo exhibition in 1892, unexpectedly and self-confidently, the artist asked a huge amount of 2 thousand francs for it. Certainly, nobody bought the painting then. It is difficult to suspect such an intention of Pissarro, who was barely making ends meet, but perhaps such an untimely price was set in hope that the painting would not be bought and it could be returned home. The Côte des Bœufs at L’Hermitage was sold to Galerie Bernheim-Jeune by Pissarro’s wife 10 years after her husband’s death.

If we take the technique of quick strokes as fundamental to Impressionism, then this painting of Pissarro painting is one of the most non-impressionistic. When they admire this artwork, they praise it not as an impressionistic landscape, but as a huge academic canvas, which were usually viewed through a magnifying glass in the Salons, to study the subtleties of applying paint.

French critic Charles Ephrussi called the picture surface “doughy, fleecy and exhausted”. Pissarro himself called working on the canvas “a Benedictine work” (French phraseological unit meaning long-term intellectual work that required a lot of patience). British artist Walter Sickert saw the Pissarro’s painting in Knoedler Gallery, London: “Nowadays writers are almost afraid to say the word ‘painstaking’ relating works of art. But the charm of this picture lies mainly in the enormous and tireless painstaking work, so skillful, so fast and so patient that the more it is invested, the more clear and simple the result is.”

In those years, Camille Pissarro worked with Paul Cézanne in the vicinity of Pontoise. And at the third exhibition of the Impressionists, the landscapes of both artists were on view. For Cézanne, it was a time of apprenticeship, admiration for the personality, intelligence and creativity of Pissarro, a time for gaining confidence in his path, brightening his palette. Cézanne often followed his “good god” to the open air, but he always put his easel higher, a bit behind. No one should stand behind him, not even Pissarro. The Côte des Bœufs at L’Hermitage and the Paul Cézanne’s La Côte Saint-Denis à Pontoise were most likely painted in one of such joint trips, because the point of view of the Cézanne’s slope is slightly higher. Undoubtedly, it was a time of mutual influence. After all, Pissarro not only took care of young Paul, he sincerely admired his pictorial energy and temperament.

Therefore, passion creeped into the general harmonious, familiar, special airy-transparent mood of the Pissarro’s paintings of the 1870s. Not the Cézanne’s, aggressive and crushing, of course. Among horizontal, mostly stable paintings, appeared a sharply vertical and dynamic one. Art critics who have studied its paint layer write about a whole range of effects. The mountain tops in the background and the trees are painted in several layers: first, thick and rich, then translucent and light. The undergrowth in the foreground are made as a network of meticulous intersecting strokes, reminiscent of the weaving of rough fabric. The predominant green colour in the foreground seems to fade a little as it goes deeper, whereas the red shades, on the contrary, intensify. This effect creates depth and perspective.
This large doughy, saturated, contrasting landscape hung in the artist’s bedroom for 26 years, until his death.

Written by Anna Sidelnikova

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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Landscape

Style of art: Impressionism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1877

Size: 114.9×87.6 cm

Artwork in selections: 23 selections