Painted near Pontoise where the painter lived from 1873 to 1882, White Frost was one of five pieces presented by Pissarro at the first exhibition of the group in 1874. The critic Louis Leroy then wrote: “What is that? -You see, white frost on deep ridges. -Ridges, that? That, frost?… But those are sheer scratches of paint uniformly put on a dirty canvas. It has neither head or tail, neither top or bottom, neither front or back.” Other critics proved more understanding, including Philippe Burty: “A White Frost effect by Mr Pissarro reminds one of the best Millets”.
The knife work and density of the stroke produce a compact, closed landscape in which air no longer seems to circulate. This sensation is accentuated by the upward diagonals of the seams that give the composition its rhythm. The character carrying a load seems likewise overburdened by the heaviness of this winter landscape. Pissarro’s technique contributes to the impression made by his subject matter. In spite of a broader stroke, despite an analysis of light that is less accurate than that made by Monet in contemporary pieces, White Frost, as it captured a particular instant in a winter day, partakes in impressionist research.