La gardeuse d’oies (la mare aux canards), c.1890
Signed lower left ‘C.Pissarro’
Gouache on silk
9 1/4 x 7 1/8 in, 23.5 x 18.1 cm
'La gardeuse d’oies (la mare aux canards)' belongs to a series of gouache paintings, created by Pissarro between 1886 and 1890, in which a beautiful peasant girl stands alongside geese...
'La gardeuse d’oies (la mare aux canards)' belongs to a series of gouache paintings, created by Pissarro between 1886 and 1890, in which a beautiful peasant girl stands alongside geese in a secluded pool of water. Developing the theme he first began in 'The Goose Girl at Mountfoucault, White Frost' (1875), which belongs to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Pissarro references the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale 'La gardeuse d’oies'. The story is one of morality, in which a princess must become a goose girl and learn the virtue of humility before she can become Queen.
In 1884, Pissarro and his family moved from Pontoise to Éragny where they settled in a country house surrounded by a large garden through which the river Epte flowed. On arrival in Éragny Pissarro wrote with enthusiasm to his Parisian dealer Paul Durand-Ruel: “I haven’t been able to restrain myself from painting, so beautiful are the motifs that surround my garden”. Remaining here until his death in 1903, it provided the ideal setting for his celebrated paintings of the French countryside and rural labour.
Influenced by the left-wing literature he read, Pissarro believed in an egalitarian, utopian society. This painting is paradigmatic of Pissarro’s dignified portrayal of workers, which was inspired in part by Jean-Francois Millet’s imagery of the noble peasant. In this picture Pissarro has re-worked Millet’s renowned painting of the same theme 'The Goose Girl' (c.1863). However, Millet’s eroticised version has been replaced with an emphasis instead on the young woman’s natural place in the landscape, as she appears absorbed into her surroundings, and her integrity as an honest farm girl, dressed in unadorned, hand-made clothes.
When Pissarro produced this work he had been spending time with the Neo-Impressionist artists Seurat and Signac for several years. Seduced by the teachings of Divisionism, he adopted Pointillist techniques in his work. However, this painting marks his return, in 1890, to Impressionism. With its loose, shimmering brushwork it reveals Pissarro’s belief that the aesthetics of Impressionism were more suited to capturing “the fullness, suppleness, liberty, spontaneity and freshness of sensation”. There is a youthful quality to light-filled paintings such as this which signify the new lease of life Pissarro experienced at the very end of his career.
Sale: Anon., Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 1 April 1954, lot 55
Private Collection, France (1954 - 2001)
Sale: Christie's, London, 6 February 2001, sale no. 6415, lot 1 (sold by the above owner)
Private Collection, USA (purchased at the above sale)
Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie des Tuileries,Exposition du Centenaire de la Naissance de Camille Pissarro, February-March 1930, no. 163.
Le Figaro, 2 April 1954
This work is accompanied by a certificate issued by Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts and Joachim Pissarro, dated 7 December 2000 and will be included in the catalogue raisonné currently being prepared by the Wildenstein Institute