Camille Pissarro – Le Jardin des Tuileries, après-midi, soleil

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Camille Pissarro is among those rare artists whose freshness of vision and relentless search to perfect his art permitted him to realize during the last years of his life a succession of masterworks — among them, this brilliantly-hued afternoon study of Tuileries Gardens. The seventeenth century landscape architect of Versailles André Le Nôtre designed Tuileries to be seen from an elevated perspective — a building or terrace— so that its perfect symmetry, order and long perspectives could be fully appreciated.  Moving from one window to the next in his upper-story apartment opposite the park, Pissarro painted twenty-eight studies of this urban landscape and Jardin des Tuileries, après-midi, soleil is perhaps the most elegant painting of the series, capturing a deep and expansive view bathed in the delicate and defused light of a late afternoon spring day in 1900. Pissarro punctuates and counterbalances the panoramic expanse with strong vertical elements; the silhouetted, sparsely foliaged trees, the statuary with their deep shadows and in the far distance, the spires of basilica Sainte-Clotilde that despite the modest scale becomes the point of convergence for the entire composition.

The painting is a tour de force of color and chroma restraint; an intoxicating optical mix of cool and warm tones brought to vibratory effect to create the atmospheric halo-like light of that late afternoon. Even now, a century and a score later we accept that Pissarro captured the glorious effects of that waning light and this work is a revelation displaying all the vitality and dexterous mastery of the best impressionist paintings of the period.