New to the Ackland: An Etching by Camille Pissaro

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A black-on-white etching of a cottage in a field with a cloudy sky overhead

Camille Pissarro was a founding member of the Impressionists, a group of French artists who sought to capture the fleeting effects of light and atmosphere in depicting nature and modern life. Though widely known for his paintings, Pissarro was also an accomplished printmaker, producing some 200 etchings and lithographs over a roughly forty-year period from 1863 to 1902. His subjects encompassed landscapes, cityscapes, and images of rural life. This recently acquired etching, The Old Cottage, a rare impression, depicts a solitary, small cottage situated in a verdant field under a cloud-filled sky. Pissarro distinguished the foreground, middle ground, and background using various textural effects that he accomplished almost entirely with aquatint, a tonal method of etching.

The composition dates from a period at the end of the nineteenth century when Pissarro experimented with various printmaking techniques and inking methods while working closely with fellow Impressionist artists Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt. A comparison of Pissarro’s Landscape through Trees at the Hermitage, Pontoise, completed in the same year as his The Old Cottage and acquired by the Ackland in 2014, showcases the range of his artistic creativity and technical skill during this pivotal time. Distinct from one another in orientation, complexity, and subject matter, the two works demonstrate Pissarro’s innovative manipulation of the etching medium to achieve unconventional, impressionistic, results. Adding this important example of Pissarro’s etchings to the collection enriches both the Ackland’s holdings of the artist’s work and our growing collection of prints and drawings by Impressionist artists.

— Dana Cowen, Sheldon Peck Curator for European and American Art before 1950

Image Credit:

Camille Pissarro, French, 1830-1903, The Old Cottage, 1879, aquatint, etching, and soft ground on paper, sheet: 9 13/16 × 10 1/2 in. (24.9 × 26.7 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Elisabeth Holmes Lee Fund, 2022.44.