Interpretive Resource

Overview: Pissarro's Artistic Development

A study of Pissarro's Impressionist painting of the frenetic, urban bustle of a Paris boulevard.

Art Institute of Chicago. Impressionism and Post-Impressionism in The Art Institute of Chicago. Art Institute of Chicago, 2000, p. 142.

In the 1890s, after experimenting briefly with the Neo-Impressionist style developed by Georges Seurat, Camille Pissarro returned to the more gestural surface treatment associated with Impressionism. The Place du Havre, Paris is one of four canvases the artist painted in February 1893 from his room at the Hôtel Garnier, overlooking the rue St. Lazare, during a temporary stay in Paris. Like several of his fellow Impressionists, most notably Gustave Caillebotte and Claude Monet, Pissarro—the great painter of rural life—found himself drawn to the teeming activity of the capital’s boulevards. Retaining the bright, primary hues of Neo-Impressionism for his representations of frenetic urban bustle, he applied them in an array of flickering, multidirectional brush strokes, an approach that epitomizes the Impressionist painting technique.

During this period, Pissarro began working in series, a practice initiated by Monet several years earlier and exemplified in his famous Stacks of Wheat. Pissarro typically began such canvases on site, recording significant atmospheric effects, and then finished them in his studio. He depicted Paris several times throughout his career, rendering metropolitan activity in a full range of seasons and weather conditions, much as he had done for more rustic settings. The Place du Havre is among the largest of the Paris compositions, all of which feature a high vantage point. Pissarro wrote of this series in 1898: "Perhaps it is not really aesthetic, but I am delighted to be able to try to do these Paris streets which people usually call ugly, but which are so silvery, so luminous, and so vital. . . . This is so completely modern."

Impressionism, urban life


High School

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