Pissarro’s representations of rural food markets can be understood as a metaphor for his own marketing of art. In the late nineteenth century, works of art were typically associated with luxury and leisure, commodities accessible only to the wealthy. Pissarro and other left-wing artists held a different view: the very life of the artist was a liberation from the bourgeois preoccupation with money or capital. Artists could live simply and produce art that could decorate and enhance ordinary life. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Pissarro painted relatively few of these scenes in oil on canvas, his most expensive medium. Small gouaches, finished drawings, and—above all—prints were much more affordable and thus found a wider and more diverse clientele.

"Marketplace in Pontoise," 1886. Graphite and pen and black-gummed ink on buff wove paper, 6 5/8 x 5 in. (16.8 x 12.7 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Robert Lehman Collection, 1975, 1975.1.679. [© The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY]

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