La route de Versailles, Louveciennes, matin gel (1871)

Pissarro, Camille (1830-1903)

La route de Versailles, Louveciennes, matin gel (The Road to Versailles, Louveciennes, Morning Frost)
Oil on canvas, 32.7 x 46.04 cm
Dallas Museum of ArtDallas

Pissarro was at the height of his powers in 1871, when he painted this compact and subtle study of morning light playing on a street near his home in Louveciennes. Unable to enlist in the French army during the Franco-Prussian War because of his Danish citizenship, Pissarro fled France at the end of 1870 and remained in exile in London until July 1871. When he returned to France, he found that his house had been ransacked by the German army and that many of his early paintings had been destroyed. Rather than being dissuaded by this setback, Pissarro commenced a campaign of landscapes representing Louveciennes that are among the greatest of his career. All the pictures benefit greatly from his time in England, not only because he was able to paint with fellow exiles Monet, Sisley, and Daubigny during that year, but also because he had studied the paintings, oil sketches, and watercolors by Constable and Turner in public collections in London. This injection of pictorial energy from earlier in the century was all that Pissarro needed to solidify his position as one of the most prominent landscape painters of the century. Whether large or small, his paintings summarize more than a decade of study, both from nature and from the greatest painters of nature. This small canvas was painted late in 1871 in a successful attempt to trap in paint one of nature’s most elusive moods during autumn and winter. On clear, cold nights, the dew that gathers on the dead leaves and grasses freezes, and in the light of dawn, the entire landscape is cloaked in a white crystalline covering that disappears as soon as it is warmed by the sun. This effect – in French, “gelée blanche,” in English, “hoarfrost,” or more poetically, “morning frost” – was a particular favorite of Pissarro, who preferred it to painting snow effects. The challenges in representing it are enormous because the frost melts so quickly in the sun. For this reason, Pissarro prepared a small canvas, working on it only during clear late-fall or early-winter mornings and waiting for the morning frost, so that, with whitened mixtures of his colors, he could lay a frosting of white paint on the roughened surface of a painting that was essentially finished. All of the old labels on the painting identify its site as Poissy, a hillside town further west of Paris than Louveciennes. Pissarro is not known to have visited Poissy, and his son Ludovic-Rodo identified the site as Louveciennes, where Pissarro lived throughout the winter of 18711872, and where he produced all the other paintings that survive from that winter (Pissarro 1989, vol. 2, no. 127). For that reason, we conclude that the painting was made in Louveciennes, as catalogued. “Impressionist Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture from the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection,” page 45. (DMA)


Pissarro, Camille (1830-1903)
La route de Versailles, Louveciennes
Walters Art MuseumBaltimore



See also:

Louveciennes | Versailles (France)