Camille Pissarro - Modern & Contemporary Art: Evening & Day Sale London Thursday, June 27, 2024 | Phillips
  • “Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.”
    —Camille Pissarro
    On the 3rd July 1893, Camille Pissarro wrote to the his friend, the famed Impressionist dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, congratulating his daughter Jeanne ahead of her upcoming wedding to Albert Dureau and presenting the bride-to-be with this delicate gouache on silk. A stunningly luminous example of the artist’s celebrated series of painted fans, La sieste aux champs revisits Pissarro’s most enduring themes, that of rural contentment or ‘la France profounde’ and the simplicity of living in harmony with nature. One of only approximately 70 paintings in fan shapes produced by the artist in a variety of mediums between 1878 and 1893, the work is a notable example of Pissarro’s painting on silk, and significant too for its full semi-circular format, departing from earlier iterations which tended to favour a narrower ‘ring’ shape, omitting the central section of the composition. Alongside a prominent 1889 example now held in the Van Gogh Museum is Amsterdam, La sieste aux champs is one of only a dozen or so examples executed in this distinctive format, remaining within the family’s collection for a century after Pissarro first gifted it to the young Jeanne.

    Pissarro, Durand-Ruel, and The Impressionists

    Hugely instrumental in his acquisition and promotion of Impressionist paintings by the likes of Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Pissarro, Durand-Ruel popularised modern art on an international stage, mounting exhibitions of these artist’s work in Paris, London, and New York and earning himself the epithet of the first truly modern art dealer in the process. The conservative Durand-Ruel struck up an unlikely rapport with the more socially radical Pissarro following their first meeting in London in the 1870s, going on to acquire some 800 paintings by the artist over the following decades. The present work speaks to the depth of this fascinating relationship between dealer and artist, and the mutual respect developed between the two. 

    Frequently described as the ‘Father of Impressionism’, Pissarro was the only artist to exhibit in all eight of the Impressionist exhibitions mounted between 1874 and 1886, developing close working relationships with other prominent artists of the movement, including Edgar Degas. Growing out of the craze for Japonisme that had swept Paris in the closing decades of the 19th century - cemented after the success of the Japanese exhibit at the 1867 Exposition Universelle - fans had become hugely sought-after objects within the fashionable world of metropolitan Paris recorded in notable paintings by Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Degas, amongst others. As Durand-Ruel noted in 1882 when he implored the financially strained Pissarro to ‘make some small gouache paintings on taffeta and some fans: they sell well and have been very successful’, these pieces proved to be highly commercial, while offering novel compositional challenges for the artist.i Degas was similarly inspired by these objects, although he tended to prefer scenes of urban entertainment, rather than rural life in his examples. It was Degas who suggested dedicating an entire room to these fan paintings in the fourth Group d’Artistes Indépendants exhibition of 1879, in which 12 of the 38 examples exhibited were created by Pissarro. 


    Bec, ‘Coup d’oeil sur les Indépendents’, Le Monde, 17 May 1879, pp. 6-7

    Painted directly onto silk, La sieste aux champs has a remarkably radiant quality, a vibrancy further emphasised by the artist’s small, lively brushstrokes activating subtle, undulating rhythms across the composition. The full semi-circular format reinforces these qualities even further, Pissarro utilising the uninterrupted horizontal arrangement of the fan to recreate the expansive feeling of the countryside, rendered here through the composition’s repeating, rolling bands of meadow, woodland, and wide-open sky. As Christopher Lloyd has suggested: ‘For Pissarro the adoption of the fan as an art form came at a critical time, namely the close of the 1870s. To a certain extent the fan may have assisted Pissarro in his search for compositional unity. The emphasis that had to be placed on the two corners of the fan meant that figures were given prominence against the background. Landscapes and horizon lines in the upper half of the fan either have a horizontal emphasis or else echo the curvature of the fan itself.’ii Highly original in his approach to this format, Pissarro created not only the powerful ‘compositional unity’ seen here but used this to reinforce the profound sense of harmony achieved between the figures and the rural landscape here as the three figures wake from their siesta, stretching and slowly reading themselves as they look out across this rolling, bucolic scene. 


    Collector’s Digest


    • Well-known for his landscapes and scenes of rural agrarian life, Camille Pissarro was a key figure of the Impressionist movement, and was the only artist to exhibit in all eight of the official Impressionist exhibitions held between 1874 and 1886. 
    • The present work was gifted to the daughter of famed Impressionist dealer Paul Durand-Ruel to celebrate her marriage to Albert Dureau in 1893 and remained within the family’s collection for 100 years. 
    • Although Pissarro created approximately 70 fan-shaped paintings in a variety of mediums between 1878 and 1893, the present work is one of only a dozen or so examples utilising the full semi-circular format and is a pristine example of the artist’s painting on silk.  
    • Today, examples of Pissarro’s fans are held in major institutional collections worldwide, including The Metropolitan Museum in New York, The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, amongst others.  



    i Lionel Venturi, Les archives de l’Impressionisme, 1939, vol. II, p. 248. 
    ii Christopher Lloyd, Pissarro, London, 1980, p. 235.

    • Provenance

      Albert and Jeanne (Durand-Ruel) Dureau, Paris (gifted by the artist on 6 September 1893)
      Marie-Louise d’Alayer de Costemore d'Arc (Durand-Ruel), Paris (by descent)
      Succession Marie-Louise d'Alayer de Costemore d'Arc
      Nahmad Collection (as of 1995)
      Christie’s, London, 29 June 1999, lot 13
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      London, Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., Pissarro and Sisley, June–July 1955, no. 30, p. 36 (titled as, La Siete)
      Paris, Galerie Jean-Claude and Jacques Bellier, D’Ingres à nos jours: acquarelles, pastels et dessins, 1960, no. 65, p. 16 (illustrated)
      Jerusalem, The Israel Museum, Camille Pissarro, Impressionist Innovator, 11 October 1994­–9 January 1995, no. 72, p. 156 (illustrated, titled as, Siesta in the Fields)

    • Literature

      Janine Bailly-Herzberg, ed., Correspondance de Camille Pissarro: 1891-1894, vol. 3, Paris, 1988, nos. 920, 929, pp. 358, 366
      Joachim Pissarro and Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro: Critical Catalogue of Paintings, vol. I, Paris, 2005, p. 34 (illustrated, titled as, Resting in the Meadow)


La Sieste aux champs

signed, dedicated and dated “à Madame Jeanne Dureau C. Pissarro 1893” lower right
gouache on silk
32.7 x 66.5 cm (12 7/8 x 26 1/8 in.)
Executed in 1893, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by The Wildenstein Plattner Institute and will be included in the forthcoming Digital Catalogue Raisonné.

Full Cataloguing

£180,000 - 250,000 

Sold for £203,200

Contact Specialist

Louise Simpson
Associate Specialist
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Modern & Contemporary Art: Evening & Day Sale

London Auction 27 June 2024