Few subjects recall the Impressionists’ fascination with changing effects of atmosphere and water as much as Pissarro’s view of Rouen. Among the members of this group, Pissarro was the most receptive to experimentation with new ideas and approaches. When he saw Monet’s pictures of Rouen Cathedral, created as a series, Pissarro found in them “the superb unity which I have been seeking for a long time.” Having painted in Rouen earlier, Pissarro was drawn back to the city in 1896 by Monet’s success. He selected a less monumental subject than Monet’s cathedral, preferring the distant views of the Seine bridges visible from his hotel window. Pissarro completed sixteen canvases of the bridges that year, delighted by the combination of natural mist and the smoke from boats and factories. Like Monet’s cathedrals, Pissarro’s Rouen bridge paintings vary greatly in color and quality of light, depending on time of day and weather conditions. He wrote to his son Lucien of his work, saying, “what interests me especially is a motif of the iron bridge in the wet, with much traffic, carriages, pedestrians, workers on the quays, boats, smoke, mist in the distance, the whole scene fraught with animation and life.” Such urban scenes are more frequent in Pissarro’s work than in that of any other major Impressionist.
tags: environment, observation, perspective, reflection, technology, artist’s process