Camille Pissarro – Toits rouges, coin d’un village, hiver Côte de Saint-Denis, Pontoise, 1877

14 08 2011

Camille Pissarro - Toits rouges, coin d'un village, hiver Côte de Saint-Denis, Pontoise, 1877

Pissarro has always been one of my favourite impressionists and this is one of my favourite works of his.  For starters the colours are full of life the reds of the earth and greens of the grass speak much more of life than the barren browns of the trees, but the patchwork effect of the fields bending up the hill and the criss-crossing branches seems to ooze life from even the bleakest season of the year.  The parallel patchwork of the rooftops hints at a harmony between man-made and nature-made whose logical manifestation are the ploughed fields – man and nature in creative union.  

The colours are vivid and vibrant but the overall effect is one of serenity, of a world at peace and in which we can appreciate the beauty of nature and the life of man together.  The bushes that protect the house mirror in form the trees atop the hill, which frame (and protect) all we see below them.  What would reward us were we to climb such a steep and curving hill?  Another blissful scene of village and valley?  

And looking at the green going up the hill, are they the three prongs of the fork used to plough the field?  Is the earth asking for man to give it back what it’s ceded in kind?  I have looked hard and long for signs of people in the picture, but I’m pretty sure there’s no one there.  And yet in the solidity of the buildings, buried staunchly in the centre of the picture by man and by the artist, there is a human presence with almost as much of an eternality to it as the seasonal landscape that surrounds and caresses it.  Perhaps Camille was trying to warn us that our environment will only last as long as we do, or was he giving us the confidence to think we’ll last as long as the earth itself? 

A picture to come back to again and again, it soothes the eyes but energises at the same time.  How I’d love to be able to wind my way between the trees and discover the village pub (for me the steep green roofed building, just in front of the mansion at the back of the village), slip inside and discover the artist having a well-deserved lunch break with the picture almost finished beside him.  




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