Lucien Pissarro, 'April, Epping' 1894

Lucien Pissarro
April, Epping 1894
Oil paint on canvas
support: 603 x 730 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1934© Tate

Tomorrow is the Vernal Equinox – the spring day when day and night are roughly the same length. After tomorrow, as days get longer and nights shorter us northern hemisphere dwellers can really start to feel winter fade and spring begin in earnest.

This painting is titled April, Epping, but I’ve allowed us a couple of week’s grace as it captures something of how the first day of spring feels (or at least how we hope it will feel). The sky is softly blue and quite different to those stark dark blue winter skies, trees are just beginning to bud, the breeze is lightly ruffling the grass and the sun is shining, though we know it may not last long.

Epping itself is a small town on the north-east border of Essex and London that gives its name to one of the largest remaining ancient woodlands in the UK: Epping Forest. It’s a place that isn’t one thing or the other: a London phone number with an Essex postcode; a Central Line Tube stop within a Site of Special Scientific Interest; urban sprawl containing village life.

This Pissarro is the son of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Camille Pissarro, and father to the painter Orovida Pissarro. Born in Paris, he moved to London in 1890 and settled for some years in Epping in 1893, just a year before this work was painted. Though he became a naturalised British citizen in 1916, he liked to refer to himself as a “Channel Painter”.

A painter between countries, painting a town between counties, for a day between seasons.