The visual genesis for such a subtle and simple work of art is anything but those two things. The recurrent essence of paintings from Pissarro's last period of work, the era from which this river scene canvas emerged, is the aggressive application of direct color, isolated yet repeated on the surface, and his effort to avoid bringing together the bordering hues except where and how he chose. Pissarro sought to depict ideals and fact, and his art was always visual first and foremost, choosing to avoid commercially pandering paths.
Smoldering along the Seine River in Rouen, a steam tug runs parallel to a steam ship, on approach to the Stone Bridge Pissarro has settled into the village of Eragny by this point in his long career, and traveled infrequently to both Paris and the Normandy Coast capital of Rouen by ship on the Seine. The artist has cast a green hue in the water and sky, with the hilly elevation beyond carrying still more foliage and warmth. Two gentlemen observers watch from the river platform, ballastrated with a fence and walk leading downward to the water's edge. Some scant other architectural details are present, while the sky is traditionally French gloomy. Interesting that much as a true watercolorist would do, Pissarro chose to let the support board peer through, adding through subtraction with the barren choice.
Beautiful yet gray in overall tone, the essence of shades of green tickle the eye in each element of earth, sky and water. Its strength in its flexible view leads us to believe that this is no sketch, but a Plein-Air vignette directly to board from Pissarro's eyes and deft, quick oil-laden brush.
Literature: Letter of Certificate from the Wildenstein Institute, Sept. 28, 2000 and the painting is to be included in the upcoming revised catalog raisonné on the artist.
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