Apple Picking at Éragny-sur-Epte
Unlike Pierre-Auguste Renoir, who turned back to inspiration from classical art, Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) always remained open to the new ideas of younger artists, and adopted the novel Neo-Impressionist style which was emerging in the mid 1880s. He met Georges Pierre Seurat and Paul Signac (1863-1935) in autumn 1885, and his friendship and allegiance would prove to be invaluable to these younger artists, for he argued strongly for their inclusion in the Impressionist group shows, which many of the older members resisted. After Seurat had painted a substantial part of Un Dimanche après-midi à l´Île de la Grande Jatte , he showed it to Pissarro. Pissarro offered some criticism, but allowed himself in turn to be influenced by the younger artist. Apart from their style, they were disliked by some of the group for their commitment to anarchist political principles, which had grown in popularity in France, and which Pissarro himself espoused from the mid 1880s. Any association with radical politics was felt by some of the artists to threaten the cautious acceptance which the Impressionist style had so recently gained among bourgeois Parisian collectors. Thus at the last group show in 1886, Claude-Oscar Monet and Renoir were absent because works by Seurat and Signac were included. However, this disagreement did not sour the relations between Pissarro, Monet and Renoir, who at this time were meeting regularly at monthly Impressionist dinners at the Café Riche in Paris. Execution or brushwork was considered unimportant by the Neo-Impressionists, as Pissarro explained:
"originality consists solely in the character of the drawing and the vision of each artist."
The descriptive, individualistic style of touch, associated with Impressionism, was dubbed romantic by the Neo-Impressionists, who sought a more impersonal, mechanical touch to eliminate such gestural individualism from their work. Thus personal originality, which had for so long been linked with a personally distinctive style in brushwork, was rejected in favour of a more restrained and anonymous handling. This aim was in keeping with the cooperative ideals of anarchist politics. "Apple Picking at Éragny-sur-Epte" La Cueillette de pommes, Éragny-sur-Epte (1888) is in the Pointillist style. His palette for this work probably included:
- cadmium yellow.
- cobalt violet.
- cobalt blue.
- emerald green.
- chrome green.
Pissarro advised his student Paul Cézanne, "Never paint except with the three primary colours (red, yellow and blue) and their derivatives." The white of the primed canvas shows up amongst the reds, yellows and blues of the shadows in the grass adding to their brilliance. The contrasting colours green and red stand out. In a letter written in 1886 Pissarro explained that he was looking for:
"A modern synthesis of methods based on science, that is, based on the theory of colours developed by Chevreul, on the experiments of Maxwell and the measurements of O.N. Rood; to substitute optical mixture for the mixture of pigments, which means to decompose tones into their constituent elements, because optical mixture stirs up luminosities more intense than those created by mixed pigments."
Of the individual touches of bright pigment on the canvas in "Apple Picking at Éragny-sur-Epte", few are completely round: the uniform-sized touches of colour are the shape of small brushes, tiny rectangular blocks which build up to form a dense mosaic on the surface of the picture; and as in Seurat's painting, the brushmarks vary in direction, following form and indicating changes of plane. The tree trunk in "Apple Picking at Éragny-sur-Epte" is executed with long vertical strokes of colour. in contrast to the criss-cross hatching of the grass. On Pissarro's figures, direction of touch, curved to follow the form, gives substance to his figures and helps to separate them out from the background.
The painting is owned by the Dallas Museum of Art.