Lucien Pissarro

Almond Trees, Le Lavandou

1923

Artist
Lucien Pissarro 1863–1944
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 597 x 730 mm
frame: 830 x 960 x 70 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1924
Reference
N03865

Not on display

Display caption

Lucien Pissarro was the eldest son of the French Impressionist painter, Camille Pissarro. As an artist, he was greatly influenced by both his father and, for a period, Seurat. He moved to England in 1890, and was a founder member of the Camden Town Group in 1911. He became a British citizen in 1916, but liked to call himself a 'Channel painter', paying the first of his many visits to the South of France in 1922. In the winter of 1922-3 he took a furnished house at the small seaside resort of Le Lavandou, in the Var province, to be near his ill mother. This country scene of almond trees in blossom was one of sixteen works he painted there.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Entry

The clear winter sky of Provence is recorded in the light tonality of this painting. Le Lavandou, at the time this painting was made in 1923, was a small fishing village on the western end of the French Riviera, between Hyères and St Tropez. Pissarro’s diary for that year opens with him and his wife Esther staying at the Villa Boniol at Bormes-les-Mimosa, just outside Le Lavandou.1 They rented this house partly for reasons of his health, allowing him to escape the British winter, but also in order to be with his elderly mother, who was staying with them and was unwell (she died in 1926). They were able to afford this visit after the success of his exhibition at the Leicester Galleries in London in October 1922.2 On 20 January, he started a picture of mimosas,3 and four days later began to paint the almond trees, as his diary reads:
January
24 Morning. drew in preparation for Almond Blossom.
25 Mrng. Continuation of preparation for Almond Blossom
26 dito
27 dito
28 Morning. Almond Blossom
29 Morning. Almond Blossom the flowers are very slow to come.
February
2 Mrg: did Almond Blossom
6 Morning worked at Almond Blossom the flowers are only beginning and give me a lot of trouble to put right with the rest of the picture.
7 mrng. Almond Blossom
13 Matin. Amandiers en Fleurs
14 Matin. Grey. Went to the Amandiers but sun disappeared. Could not work
15 Matin. finished Amandiers en fleurs.
It thus took twelve mornings’ work to make this painting over a period of twenty-three days, in the middle of which he seems to have slowed up to await the opening of the blossom. The colour is applied quite thinly in comparison to the earlier paintings by Pissarro in the Tate collection, and the white ground of the canvas shows through in various places, especially around the trunks and branches of the trees. The canvas is unpainted in each top corner, behind the rebate of the frame, perhaps because of some clips to keep it on the easel. The blossom of the five almond trees is dabbed on top of the painting of the branches, in shades of pink with blue, red and mauve.

David Fraser Jenkins
October 2002

Notes

1
The diary is in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
2
W.S. Meadmore, Lucien Pissarro: Un Coeur simple, London 1962, p.182.
3
Private collection, on loan to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Anne Thorold, A Catalogue of the Oil Paintings of Lucien Pissarro, London 1983, no.359.
4
Quoted ibid., p.22.
5
Ibid., nos.353–62, 364–70.
6
James Laver, Portraits in Oil and Vinegar, London 1925, pp.31–2.
7
J.B. Manson, Hours in the Tate Gallery, London 1926, p.128.
8
Thorold 1983, no.360.
9
Memorial Exhibition of Paintings and Water-colours by Lucien Pissarro, 1863–1944, Leicester Galleries, London, January 1946.

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