Not on display
The ‘mist’ of the title is seen at the left, in the middle distance behind the trees in the bottom of the valley, towards the main part of Hastings Old Town which is also down to the left. The mist is being cleared at the right by the bright sunlight, which falls on the church and the hillside behind it. The overall pink tonality is centred on the strong red of the church tower’s pyramid roof, and many of the buildings are reddish. The church is defined by strong shadows, as the light falls from behind the artist to the left. The screen of trees in the foreground was painted before the detail behind it, which is fitted in around the branches.
Pissarro’s view is from what is now East Hill in Hastings Country Park, Sussex, and was probably then also open space. It is very near where he was living in Hastings at 2 High Wickham. The early fifteenth-century church, one of two medieval churches in Hastings, is attractive but not of particular historical or architectural interest.1 Pissarro’s views of the town nearly all avoid the streets and the centre, and illustrate the way the outskirts meet the country at its margin. In Tate’s painting much of the view is of open land, which a rim of very accurately painted housing is beginning to enclose. This sense of the town taking over the countryside, and the curious interim value of areas that are half town and half country, is evident in other views by Pissarro that include modern buildings, although he preferred to avoid towns altogether. This was a common theme of Camden Town Group paintings, shown, for example, in Spencer Gore’s views of Letchworth (Tate T01960, fig.1).
Pissarro’s work on the painting is detailed in one of his diaries.2 He used them to record his work and travels as if talking to himself, with exclamation marks at the exciting bits. Much of each diary is blank, suggesting that he only wrote when he was away from home on a painting expedition. Of those that have survived, only two cover the period of any of Tate’s five paintings, but these each include a daily record of his work. In the 1918 diary he notes his arrival at Hastings on 11 January, and continues:
Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England, Sussex, East Sussex, Harmondsworth 1965, 1970 edn, p.519.
Pissarro Papers, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Probably Hastings: Mist, Sun and Smoke, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, in Anne Thorold, A Catalogue of the Oil Paintings of Lucien Pissarro, London 1983, no.270.
Sketchbook 63, 1918, p.43, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Frank Rutter, ‘The Galleries: The Monarro Group’, Sunday Times, 15 February 1920, p.6.
‘A Review of Impressionism: The Monarro Aftermath of the Impressionists Movement at the Goupil Gallery Exhibition’, Vogue, late March 1920, p.77.