Camille Pissarro
(St-Thomas, 1830-1903, Paris)
The Conversation (Road from Versailles to Louveciennes), 1870
Oil on canvas, 100 x 81 cm
Signed & dated lower left: C. Pissarro 1870
Pissarro/Durand-Ruel 163
Camille Pissarro's view of the road to Versailles in the village of Louveciennes, near Paris, was painted in 1870 – four years before the artist helped, as one of the main movers, to organise the first exhibition of work by the Impressionists in Paris. The painting can be analysed in two parts. The left half is occupied by the figures of two women, who are having a conversation across a garden fence – this places them firmly in the world of artistic realism, which in the mid-nineteenth century had the declared aim of observing daily life. In the right half, by contrast, where people are strolling along a sunny road, intensive light and colour effects give an intimation of the new impulses that Impressionism was meant to contribute to contemporary painting. The house on the edge is where Pissarro and his family were living at the time. The woman with her back to us is his wife, Julie, and the child at her side is their daughter, Minette. The small shed directly behind the two woman is of interest, because it is where the artist stored his landscape paintings when they were finished. It was just big enough for that, but luckily Pissarro did not need to work inside it –artists like him painted straight onto the canvas in the open air, rather than working indoors in the studio, which is why this method became known as "en plein air". It was not just the lower cost of country living that led many Impressionist landscape painters to live in the small villages around Paris – moving out of the city also brought them closer to the subjects that they wanted to paint.