In 1884 Camille Pissarro rented a large house in the village of Eragny-sur-Epte, a village one and a half hours northwest of Paris, for himself and his growing family. That year his wife Julie – at 46 – gave birth to their eighth child. “The house is superb and inexpensive: a thousand francs, with garden and meadow.” Pissarro later bought the place – with financial help from Claude Monet – converting the barn into a studio. From the barn’s large bay-window, Pissarro was able to see the tall church steeple of the neighbouring village of Bazincourt, which suggests that the present composition may have been painted directly in his studio.
Le Clocher de Bazincourt, dated around 1885, is one of many views of the church tower the artist had painted in the last two decades of his life. It shows the steeple of Bazincourt under friendly skies, framed by bushes and trees, with a single figure and a grazing cow standing in a meadow. The work is composed out of rapid, very short brushstrokes in creamy colours, anticipating Pissarro’s temporary engagement with Neo-Impressionism.
In 1885 Pissarro was introduced to Paul Signac and Georges Seurat. Fascinated by the ‘scientific’ colour theories of his younger colleagues, he started experimented with the “Divisionist” painting style. In a way, this technique was a natural consequence of his own stylistic development of the last decade. During the late 1870s and early 1880s Pissarro used increasingly shorter, more regular brushstrokes and a wider palette of colours in his art. However, ultimately, he found the technique too restricting. Around 1889 he began to move away from Neo-Impressionism, believing it made it “impossible to be true to my sensations and consequently to render life and movement.”
The Bell Tower of Bazincourt, 1885
Oil on canvas
65.1 x 53.7 cm
Saint Louis Art Museum, no. 178:1955
The Steeple at Bazincourt, 1895
Oil on canvas
65.1 x 59.4 cm
Private collection (cat. rais. no. 1087)
Consisting of over 300 paintings, Pissarro’s “Bazincourt series”, is one of the largest series ever created by an Impressionist artist. According to art historian Joachim Pissarro, the artist’s great-grandson, Pissarro’s serial practice is hardly ever mentioned in literature about him. Along with Richard R. Brettell, he is currently planning an exhibition of the “Bazincourt series” that will focus on “the richness and complexity of Pissarro’s abiding dedication to this single series project.”
 quoted in J. Pissarro & C. Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro, Catalogue critique des peintures, vol. III, Paris, 2005, p. 499 Pissarro in a letter dated 1896, cited in: John Rewald, Camille Pissarro, 1989 Pissarro, G. Solana et al., exhibition cat. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, 2013, p.45 and 51