In the summer of 1903, Camille Pissarro traveled to the bustling port of Le Havre, where he produced an energy-filled series of views of the harbor. Le Havre and its harbor had often attracted the attention of numerous other artists, including Boudin and Monet, in the past. Although the harbor was no longer as it had been by the time Pissarro arrived, he nonetheless found the constant movements of boats and people intriguing. These kinetic scenes constantly presented Pissarro with opportunities to paint new subject matter in a single view. In response to his new environment, Pissarro painted the series of Le Havre pictures, to which Avant-port et anse des pilotes, Le Havre, belongs, from his room in the Hotel Continental. As a result of their having been painted from roughly the same vantage point, the series combines the rigorous discipline of the analysis of the same view with the ever-changing permutations of people and boats. Taking advantage of the environment, Pissarro also painted various other views of the harbor, as found in the piece Port du Havre (P&V 1305). As such, an almost identical view of the current piece, called Anse des pilotes, matin, temps gris, brumeaux (P&V 1309) also exists.
Pissarro’s interest in these harbor scenes stemmed partly from the compositional potential of the views—in this piece, the verticality of the masts and of the bold focal point of the iron tower break up the horizontality of the sea. These features also bring out the massed figures in the harbor by emphasizing the verticality of the people, which, in turn, creates the impression of a crowd of people similarly enthralled in watching the boats.
Despite being cited as the Impressionist par excellence, Pissarro created a paean to the real world and to modernity in Avant-port et anse des pilotes, Le Havre. Rather than limiting himself to the traditional confines of Impressionism, Pissarro demonstrated his willingness to disrupt the traditional aesthetic sense so favored by his contemporaries in depicting the grey weather and the industrial urbanity in this painting.
Despite having painted them at a time when he was approaching death, Pissarro’s scenes from Le Havre constitute his most intensely focused series of works and demonstrate his continued pursuit of creative. Indeed, these works have been the objects of much praise, as they show Pissarro’s ability to reinvent himself and his art and his dedication to his craft even in the last year of his life.
Camille Pissarro represents one of the foremost painters of the Impressionist school. He is often regarded as the ‘father’ of the movement and was the only painter to exhibit in all eight of the Impressionist exhibitions held between 1874 and 1886. One of the most influential painters of the 19th century, Pissarro’s work inspired a wide sphere of exemplary artists such as Cassat, Cezanne, Gauguin, and Degas. Indeed, careful examination of his oeuvre is crucial to one’s understanding of both Impressionism and the evolution of modern art.
Museum Collections Include:
Musee du Louvre, Paris; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Musee d’Orsay, Paris; Guggenheim Museum, New York; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Art Institute of Chicago, IL; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Hermitage, St. Petersburg; Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Neue Pinakothek, Munich; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Clark Art Institute, Williamstown; Cleveland Museum of Art, OH; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Frick Collection, New York; Tate Gallery, London; Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.