As the Impressionist with a broad range of interests, Camille Pissarro was an inveterate experimenter least bound by rules or norms. He was also the quasi-ringmaster of a concerted effort to challenge the conventionality of the Salon. It may be difficult for a 21st century eye to appreciate its modernity, but in 1880, Le Pere Melon fendant du Bois is as resolute in its defiance of Salon hegemony as it is a modern painting based on Pissarro’s own sensations of color. This piece was included in the Sixth Impressionist Exhibition of 1881.
Of Jewish bourgeois stock, Pissarro might seem ill-suited for the task of assuming the mantle of Jean-Francois Millet, recently passed in 1875. But as a man of great humility, utterly sincere in his faith in the goodness of others, Pissarro worked incessantly and lived a simple life of honest toil so that the requisite sympathy and understanding of rural living was a deep-seated element of his own experience. This painting comes from a two-year phase dominated by paintings, drawings, and prints of rural workers and farmers and presents a harmonious ensemble of figures staged within an atmosphere of imbuement, full of color and light.