Perhaps We All Come From Pissarro


Camille Pissarro, Quarry, Pontoise, c. 1874. Oil on canvas, 22 7/8 x 28 1/2 in. The Rudolf Staechelin Collection © Kunstmuseum Basel, Martin P. Bühler

On view in Gauguin to Picasso: Masterworks from SwitzerlandCamille Pissarro‘s Quarry, Pontoise is a lush, peaceful scene. After the Franco-Prussian War, the artist moved from Louveciennes to Pontoise in the rural Oise Valley, where he lived from 1872–82. He chose the hamlet of l’Hermitage for almost his entire stay, inspired by its streets, fields, and countryside. Here, Pissarro shows a woman with a basket walking past a quarry on the arcing path of the rue de l’Hermitage, which leads to the Saint-Antoine ravine. In this area 25 miles northwest of Paris, Pissarro painted side-by-side with Paul Cézanne from 1872 to 1874. Both artists greatly admired and influenced each other. Cézanne claimed to be a pupil of Pissarro and stated: “Perhaps we all come from Pissarro.”

Summer Heat and Gardens

Karl Knaths, Green Squash, 1948. Oil on canvas, 24 1/8 x 27 1/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1948.

Summer solstice isn’t until June 21, but it has certainly felt like summer already. Late spring of 1943 was also hot. Letters from Elmira Bier, Duncan Phillips’s assistant, to Alfred Stieglitz sound much like conversation you would hear around our Dupont Circle neighborhood today. On June 29, 1943, she writes, “I trust [my letter] finds you well and able to stand this heat. I am tiring a little of one topic of conversation but no one seems able to avoid it.” In a letter a few weeks before, she lovingly described her gardening:

At the moment we are having a nice summer shower which will be fine for the brockely[sic] I set out last night. My dream for a small house and a large garden is still only the stuff dreams are made of but I have the use of a garden where I have put cabbages among my roses and tomatoes with my violets so weather has become very important to me. I’ll report on the crops later.

Ms. Bier started working for The Phillips Collection in 1923 and retired in 1972.