Not on display
The earliest of Lucien Pissarro’s paintings in the Tate collection, made a few years after he settled in Britain, April, Epping 1894 reflects the artist’s continuing admiration for Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, the ‘neo-impressionist’ or ‘divisionist’ artists with whom he had been friends in Paris. For a few years his father Camille had also been an enthusiastic practitioner of divisionism, the style of painting in dots of light colour favoured by Seurat and Signac, and all four artists had shown as a group in Paris in 1886, in the last of the series of impressionist exhibitions. Lucien was then still living with his father, and had introduced him to these younger painters. Camille did not persist with this laborious way of applying oil paint, but during the 1890s his pictures of, for example, the port of Rouen, are still speckled with luminous touches of colour. Similarly, in his first paintings in Britain, Lucien did not continue to apply separate dots, as he had done in landscapes he painted in France until 1890. He wrote to his father on 11 March 1894: ‘je ne me suis en aucune façon préoccupé de la division’ (I am not in the slightest concerned with divisionism).1
In this view of Epping, Pissarro stood with his back to the sun facing a field, a row of trees, and some houses along a road in the clear sunlight of a spring day. He covers the expanse of the foreground with ordered, criss-crossed touches of paint, mostly light green but with a variety of other colours, showing recession by means of colour.2 In the left corner the shadow of a large tree falls across the field; it is painted with orange, mauve and blue touches among the green of the meadow, so allowing Pissarro to demonstrate a key principle of impressionism: that shadows are coloured. At the centre of the composition a woman dressed in a black cloak walks just behind the line of trees. Four of the houses at the right have long kitchen gardens. The painting is a recreation of a sunlit landscape, but it also emphasises the village economy of the tended gardens.
Lucien Pissarro, letter to Camille Pissarro, 11 March 1894, in Anne Thorold (ed.), The Letters of Lucien to Camille Pissarro, 1883–1903, Cambridge 1993, p.359.
Other examples of this use of an empty expanse of vibrant green are Marais de Bazincourt 1887 and La Prairie de Tierceville, temps gris 1888, both reproduced in Lucien Pissarro et le post-impressionnisme anglais, exhibition catalogue, Musée de Pontoise 1998, pp.18–19.
Barbara Pratt, Lucien Pissarro in Epping, Loughton 1982, p.8.
Lucien Pissarro, letter to Camille and Julie Pissarro, before 26 July 1893, in Thorold (ed.) 1993, p.323.
Information from A.J. Church, October 1992.
Lucien Pissarro, letter to Camille Pissarro, May 1894, in Thorold (ed.) 1993, p.362.
See Anne Thorold, A Catalogue of the Oil Paintings of Lucien Pissarro, London 1983.