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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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French impressionist artist, Camille Pissarro painted Fox Hill, Upper Norwood in 1870 when he was living there. During the Franco-Prussian war, many artists fled from France and moved to other European nations.

Pissarro moved to England in 1870, settling in Upper Norwood at 2, Chatham Terrace. He painted several pieces of the place, showcasing the natural environment. The oil on canvas painting sits at the London National Gallery.

The Realism of Fox Hill

This painting is one of several that depicted Upper Norwood. Pissarro blended many different colours and shades to recreate the local scenery. In Fox Hill, Upper Norwood, a man wearing a black suit and hat is walking down a path. Two women are coming from the opposite direction. They appear to be chatting. On the left side of the painting is a collection of buildings with smoke billowing from the chimneys.

Just up the path, on the right side, homes line the street. More than five houses are in sight, so the spectator can tell that it was a busy area. The houses have thick bushes surrounding them, which adds to the countryside aesthetic. In front of one of the compounds is a short fence that gives the painting a cosy feel. One look at this piece will allow the viewer to paint a mental picture of how the neighbourhood was like.

Storytelling through Colour

The brilliant use of colour by Pissarro makes this painting of Upper Norwood realistic. An analysis of the pigments on the canvas revealed that the artist combined a palette that included viridian, vermilion and artificial ultramarine. The houses on the left are painted in orange with red roofs. The others are in a shade of dirty yellow while the roofs are white. This mix matching of colours gives the neighbourhood a distinct personality.

Pissarro painted the edge of the path with white to show the snow that had collected on the road. The way he used the white of the snow and brown of the earth looks as if it had been snowing for a while, but it stopped and now, the road only has remnants of the white powder. According to the history of the painting, the French artist used the wet-in-wet technique to create the masterpiece.

Painting the Outdoors

Fox Hill, Upper Norwood is one of many paintings that Pissarro did of the outdoors. At the time of this painting, Pissarro was among a group of 15 artists who were exploring the impressionist style. The French painter was known for his love of natural scenes. The style, called en plein air, used the natural environment as subjects. His scenes of the countryside were meant to capture the reality of how the locals lived. History has it that Pissarro finished his pieces outdoors, which is how he was able to retain the real essence of the place. He painted this scene of Upper Norwood when the region was enjoying a new railway connection but had not expanded to a suburb yet.

Fox Hill, Upper Norwood Camille Pissarro