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Introduction
A Series of Colored Patches
Painting in Reserve
Layering the Paint
Setting the Scene
The Role of Underdrawing
Rhythm of Execution
Fully Realized from the Start
Integrating the Ground - Cézanne
Integrating the Ground - Pissarro
 
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Layering the Paint


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In Orchard, Côte Saint-Denis, at Pontoise (The Côte des Boeufs, Pontoise) (1877), Pissarro’s treatment of the subject—his handling of paint—clearly shows that he labored over this work for a considerable amount of time. The paint build-up is extensive and is in many instances characterized by the layering of paint over well-dried, earlier layers. The skipping of the brush along hardened under-layers is most evident in the tree trunks. The lower textures, whether they are canvas texture or brush strokes, translate through layers of paint. As the paint dries, the next application of paint increasingly skips along the ridges and valleys of the first stroke. In Pissarro’s Côte des Boeufs we see how the repeated application of paint has resulted in an almost crusty surface. Despite evidence of numerous campaigns on the canvas to build that crusty layer, Pissarro has been quite scrupulous in keeping the edges of the forms comparatively unpainted, in reserve. Cézanne’s treatment of the same subject from a different point of view is technically the polar opposite. The palette-knife application of buttery paint makes the Cézanne seem like a wall of paint when compared to the flicks and feathery touches of the Pissarro.

Interestingly, Pissarro seems to have looked back a few years to Cézanne’s The House of the Hanged Man, Auvers-sur-Oise (1873) for the kind of brushwork he used here. In The House of the Hanged Man we see an almost identical handling of paint, especially in the trees. Here too, like Pissarro in the Côte des Boeufs, he has built the paint up methodically, layering the paint on well dried under-layers, resulting in the crusty, tangibly textured surface. That The House of the Hanged Man would be one source for Pissarro might be due to the fact that it was in the first Impressionist Exhibition in 1874, and Pissarro chose to paint in a similarly emphatic manner which, coupled with the scale of the painting and its rigorous approach to brushwork, would surely have helped distinguish it at the third Impressionist Exhibition.