Autumn, Poplars, Éragny (Automne, Peupliers, Éragny)
- Camille Pissarro, French, 1830-1903
Camille Pissarro was born on the island of St. Thomas in the West Indies (Virgin Islands, when the island was still a territory of Denmark), where he spent most of his formative years. Pissarro was an artistic youth and spent much of his time drawing and painting. He moved to Paris in 1855, began his art studies, and joined a group of young painters who later became known as the Impressionists. Impressionist artists used bright colors, painted everyday scenes, and left their brushstrokes broken and visible—techniques that challenged the rules of academic painting at the time. Most Impressionists were not allowed to show their works at the Salon, the official French art exhibition, because of their unconventional approaches to painting. In response to their exclusion, Pissarro organized an exhibition of Impressionist paintings in 1874. A total of eight Impressionist exhibitions were organized after 1874 and Pissarro was the only artist in the group to show his work at all of them. He is considered by many to be the central figure of the Impressionists. In his time, Pissarro saw the Impressionist style move from being unconventional and rejected to favorable and admired.
Pissarro painted Autumn Poplars from the window of his country home in the village of Eragny, about an hour northwest of Paris. He loved painting outdoors and even invented an easel on wheels to help him accomplish this. Pissarro was an innovative artist, constantly searching for new means of expression; his style was always evolving. In this painting, Pissarro experimented with color, painting dots of pure, unmixed colors side by side. When viewed from a distance, the colors blend together, creating an image that is very different than what one would see close-up. He began experimenting with this technique after meeting French painter Georges Seurat [sur-AHT], who is known for this style of painting. Pissarro put his own twist on Seurat’s tight, tiny dot technique by using looser brushstrokes that appear more like dabs of paint.
Pissarro and the Impressionists had liberated themselves from the constraints of subject matter, composition, and style. Impressionists were breaking boundaries and exploring new ways to depict the world through painting. In light of their work, new possibilities opened up—among them what colors to use, what subjects to portray, and even how to paint them. Pissarro explored and experimented with these new possibilities throughout his career.
Pissarro, like most Impressionists, was interested in scenes from ordinary life and the effects of light. In this painting, there are no people, just several poplar trees in their rich autumn colors. Don’t miss the grazing cows in the background between the trees.
Color, Light, and Shadow
Many different colors can be seen in this painting: yellow, green, pink, red, black, and blue. Light shines from behind the trees, causing shadows to be cast, which were painted in a darker green, across the grass. Leaves that have fallen off the smaller tree in the foreground dot the green grass.
If you look closely at this painting, it’s easy to see thousands of small dots or dabs of paint. When viewed from a distance, the colors begin to blend into one another, creating a more recognizable image.
Levitov, Karen, and Richard Shiff. Camille Pissarro: Impressions of City & Country. New York: The Jewish Museum, 2007.
A discussion of Pissarro’s unique style and the differences between his urban and rural landscapes.
Lloyd, Christopher. Pissarro. Oxford: Phaidon Press Limited, 1979.
An informative essay about the life and work of Pissarro along with images of works spanning his whole career.
Maloon, Terance, ed. Camille Pissarro. Sydney, Australia: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2005.
An extensive text with essays discussing various aspects of Pissarro’s work, numerous high quality images, and a section on his critical reception.
Rothkopf, Katherine. Pissarro: Creating The Impressionist Landscape. London: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd., 2006.
This book contains essays and images covering Pissarro’s landscapes works from the early and middle parts of his career.
Shikes, Ralph E., and Paula Harper. Pissarro: His Life and Work. New York: HorizonPress, 1980.
An extensive discussion of each stage of Pissarro’s life and associated work. Chapter 16 focuses on his life at Eragny.
Yazawa, Masao. Retrospective: Camille Pissarro. Tokyo: Art Life Ltd., 1984.
A group of essays about Pissarro, his prints, and landscapes in addition to several good quality images and an illustrated chronology. The Denver Art Museum's painting is Plate 47.
Funding for object education resources provided by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, and Xcel Energy Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.
The images on this page are intended for classroom use only and may not be reproduced for other reasons without the permission of the Denver Art Museum. This object may not currently be on display at the museum.