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Pissarro's most significant mature years were spent at Pontoise, where he lived from 1872 to 1884. The small town and the rural world beyond the suburbs engaged him completely and provided an apparently endless set of possibilities for a thoroughly modern interpretation of landscape. His commitment to nature and human values found their full expression at Pontoise, and it was there that his reputation as the foremost painter of rustic life was established. There is no doubt Pissarro saw himself as a painter who revolutionized tradition. Émile Zola, who followed his career with increasing interest, thought him by 1876 more revolutionary than Monet.
The new and old roads from Pontoise to Ennery figure in several
of the artist's works of the early 1870s. These, however, frequently
focus on a small section of landscape. In 1877, in this unusually
large and ambitious painting, Pissarro depicted the broader configuration
of the land in a panoramic view conceived in a heroic mode. The
road is seen from the foot of the hills, where the flat, fertile
fields unfold for a considerable distance. It is a noble and austere
landscape defined exclusively in visual terms, with the figures
reduced to the level of incidental detail in order to give nature
a sense of scale. As always in Pissarro's work, the orchestration
of colours is supremely refined. Interestingly, the painting exudes
an authority that conveys none of his hopelessness about his desperate
prospects: utterly destitute, in the spring of 1877 he had been
threatened with seizure of his paintings.