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.
This subject matter is among his most widely admired and is represented in the most prestigious museum collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, among many others.