Written by Allie Gloe, Curatorial Intern
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) was born in the West Indies on the island of St. Thomas, a major port between Europe, Africa and the Americas. In his early twenties, he left his home island and headed for Paris to study at various academies and learn from masters like Courbet and Corot. While in Paris, Pissarro attended the Great Exhibition at the World’s Fair and participated in both the Salon and the Salon des Refusés. Pissarro and his fellow Impressionist painters were criticized for their technique. During a time in which photographic quality and ideal figures were expected from artists, the Impressionists (then, a derogatory term) were thought to produce only mere sketches or impressions – unfinished paintings. This, however, did not prevent Pissarro from experimenting and looking for new inspiration. He paid close attention to light and the effects of the seasons on the landscape.
This study of The Gleaners depicts two groups of women gleaning across an open field. Gleaners would collect leftover grain after the farmers completed their harvest. This was a dreary and exhausting process, but had to be done, for gleaners were poor and hungry. In this study, Pissarro makes visible his grid lines and preliminary sketches. He uses gouache, charcoal, crayon and watercolor to illustrate rolling hills, trees, and the hard-working gleaners. He used this study for the final oil painting also titled The Gleaners.
“The Pissarro is one of my favorites because I love to see the artist’s mind at work trying to capture a moment in time.” — anonymous