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The Cover
January 3, 2007

Piette's House at Montfoucault

JAMA. 2007;297(1):11. doi:10.1001/jama.297.1.11

What greater delight to the soul of a painter than a fresh-fallen snow under a leaden sky? And this is exactly what greeted Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) one winter day in 1874 when he was staying with his close friend and fellow painter Ludovic Piette at his farm in Brittany. Here was the perfect opportunity to study light and its effects, not the bright light of a sunny day that would reflect the brilliant blues, yellows, and reds in a garden, but the subtle nuances of a light that revealed a monochrome landscape of grays and whites, relieved only slightly by the bulk of a stone-colored house. But the painting is not only about color, subdued as it is; it is about Pissarro's experience that day—his sensations—of the snow: heavy, wet, sudden, isolating; boughs bent almost to the ground beneath the weight of the snow; some of the trees caught with their leaves not yet fallen; sky heavy with moisture, about to add to the fall already on the ground. Nor, apparently, were the humans any better prepared: two tiny figures take advantage of what promises to be only a brief lull to carry in armloads of wood and hay, for cooking, for warming, for feeding livestock. Yet the cold is not all: there is added a sense of coziness and warmth as well, of a comfortable camaraderie between intimate friends that will continue within the kitchen of the farmhouse as Pissarro, Piette, their wives, and children wait out the winter.

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