The Camden Town Group in Context

ISBN 978-1-84976-385-1

Lucien Pissarro Ivy Cottage, Coldharbour: Sun and Snow 1916

In this snow scene the sun rests low in the sky, partially obscured by a fir tree on the left-hand side, mixing shadow and light in the pink and blue patches cast on the snow. A figure walks along the road with coat collar turned up, a trail of footprints indicated with brushstrokes of pinkish grey. On the left of the painting is Ivy Cottage, where the Pissarros lived at this time, in the village of Coldharbour in Surrey.
Lucien Pissarro 1863–1944
Ivy Cottage, Coldharbour: Sun and Snow
1916
Oil paint on canvas
530 x 644 mm
Inscribed ‘LP’ in monogram and ‘1916’ bottom left, and ‘Ivy Cottage (Sunset Snow) Coldharbour’ in pencil on stretcher top member
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1943
N05552

Entry

Camille Pissarro 'Fox Hill, Upper Norwood' 1870
Fig.1
Camille Pissarro
Fox Hill, Upper Norwood 1870
National Gallery, London
Photo © National Gallery, London
The impressionists had eagerly taken the opportunity to paint snow, which, because of their interest in varieties of weather conditions and natural colours, became a particular speciality. For example, in the winter of 1885 Camille Pissarro painted a group of snow scenes at Eragny, where Lucien, although mostly then based in Paris where he was making some of his first paintings and illustrations, often visited him. Camille also painted a snow scene in England in 1870 during Lucien’s first visit to the country (fig.1). Lucien did not paint snow particularly often: first in the winter of 1892 at Eragny, then in 1909–10 at Stamford Brook in west London, but then not again until four paintings, of which this is one, at Coldharbour in 1916. In Ivy Cottage, Coldharbour: Sun and Snow he also repeats another habit of the impressionists: depicting the sun full face low in the sky. It is partly hidden behind the branches of the fir tree at the left and is painted in thick impasto, surrounded by arcs of pink. The colours of the snow are striking, in blue and shades of pink and pinkish grey. A figure at the centre wearing a long coat with its collar up and a tight-fitting hat walks away up the hill.
The cottage at the left, which almost disappears behind ivy, is the ‘Ivy Cottage’ of the title, where the Pissarros lived from November 1915 to July the following year.1 Coldharbour, near Leith Hill, south of Dorking in Surrey, was another remote village rather like Fishpond in Dorset where Pissarro had stayed the year before, and was again close to steep hills. He painted the view from the hills, and painted snow again the following winter, when he was living at East Knoyle in Wiltshire. His friend J.B. Manson wrote to Pissarro about the effects of snow on 2 February 1914:
I am sure you must be having a bad time in this cold weather. Are you getting any snow or frost effects? In London the snow and frost have looked quite big enough to be painted but of course I haven’t been able to do anything. The effects have been beautiful – subtle and mysterious. I am sorry you will not have been here to see them!2
Geoffrey Blackwell (1884–1943), who bought this landscape when it was first exhibited the year it was made, was the principal collector of paintings by the impressionist Philip Wilson Steer (1860–1941), and amassed from 1909 a large group of his works. He had wanted to buy one of the Stamford Brook snow pictures by Pissarro in 1913, at the opening of his Carfax Gallery exhibition, but was put off by the price of 120 guineas, which was extraordinarily high even for a large painting.3 Manson was pushing for a sale, and Blackwell wrote back to him:
Personally I think the Snow piece about the finest thing there and I should like to have had it but the price is quite ridiculous though I am told the owner does not really want to part with it ... I wish to discuss Pissarro and learn why you admire his work so and why you don’t admire Steer more.4
He invited Manson to lunch, and although he did not buy the painting this time he quickly bought this Coldharbour painting three years later. When writing about Blackwell’s collection in 1914, Manson concentrated inevitably on the Steers but added that ‘works of a different calibre or of different intention are being added’ to the collection, and then listed five Pissarros and reproduced two of them.5 The range of Blackwell’s collection was conservative, following Slade School staff and pupils and members of the New English Art Club, such as Henry Tonks, Augustus John, C.J. Holmes, George Clausen, Ambrose McEvoy and Glyn Philpot. Manson’s article mentions no other Camden Town Group artists as being part of the collection.
The recommendation for purchase of this painting was made by John Rothenstein, Director of the Tate Gallery, to the Royal Academy.6 The painting was singled out by John Cornforth in a review of the 1963 exhibition: ‘The dash and freedom of the Tate Gallery’s Ivy Cottage, Coldharbour: Sun and Snow is exceptional, and one wishes that he had painted more in this brilliant manner.’7
In 1988 the painting was lent to Chequers in Buckinghamshire, the official country house of the Prime Minister, following a request from Margaret Thatcher’s office for some modern British paintings to replace others that had had to be returned. It was retained by John Major, the next Prime Minister, but withdrawn when the Tate reviewed its loan policy in 1997.

David Fraser Jenkins
October 2002

Notes

1
Anne Thorold, A Catalogue of the Oil Paintings of Lucien Pissarro, London 1983, p.18. Orovida Pissarro confirmed the place in replying to an enquiry from the Tate Gallery of 16 September 1958: ‘Ivy Cottage is on the left of the picture and that is where my parents rented furnished rooms for a seasons painting.’ Tate Catalogue file.
2
J.B. Manson, letter to Lucien Pissarro, 2 February 1914, Tate Archive TGA 806/2/11–22.
3
Stamford Brook Green (Snow and Mist) 1909–10, 61 x 73.5 cm; Thorold 1983, no.132.
4
Geoffrey Blackwell, letter to J.B. Manson, 2 May 1913, Tate Archive TGA 806/1/104–6.
5
J.B. Manson, ‘Mr Geoffrey Blackwell’s Collection of Modern Pictures’, Studio, vol.61, 15 May 1914, p.272.
6
John Rothenstein, letter to Sir Walter Lamb, 22 April 1943, Tate Catalogue file.
7
J. Cornforth, ‘A French Impressionist in England’, Country Life, vol.123, no.3437, 17 January 1963, pp.98–9.

How to cite

David Fraser Jenkins, ‘Ivy Cottage, Coldharbour: Sun and Snow 1916 by Lucien Pissarro’, catalogue entry, October 2002, in Helena Bonett, Ysanne Holt, Jennifer Mundy (eds.), The Camden Town Group in Context, Tate Research Publication, May 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/camden-town-group/lucien-pissarro-ivy-cottage-coldharbour-sun-and-snow-r1136020, accessed 19 March 2019.