Camille Pissarro like many of the Impressionists spent much of his working life based in an area northwest of Paris, mostly in or around the old town of Pontoise, and within easy reach of the capital. The landscape of the surrounding villages and small towns offered the artist numerous motifs, though not of the dramatic kind — low, bare hills, stone buildings with red or blue roofs, and screens of slender trees seem to characterize the areas he chose to paint.
In 1882 Pissarro and his family moved from Pontoise to a nearby village called Osny. Situated on the banks of the river Viosne, a tributary of the Oise, Osny was in a region already well known to the artist. It was the intimate aspects of the rural landscape that he chose as his Osny subjects, painting intimate views of the village, the inlet in the river, the local farm, or the road leading to the village.
The 1870s had been a period of struggle and experiment for Pissarro. He had made a number of dramatic changes of style during the decade, driven in particular by the constant battle between representing 'sensations' of nature and finding a means of doing so while at the same time achieving a more finished and tougher facture or surface. During this period Pissarro again worked for a time with Cezanne, the two often painting the same subjects.
By the 1880s Pissarro's canvases are often densely built up with small brushstrokes layered almost like a woven blanket. The Banks of the Viosne at Osny in Grey Weather, Winter has a highly complex paint surface. A dense pattern of directional brushstrokes is marshalled across the canvas, delineating the embankment, the water and the stone walls. The paint surface is layered in some areas and in others scraped back but not uniformly. The sharp green of the foreground seems in some instances to have been applied direct from the tube, and is scattered with occasional dots of red. The palette is strongly green and indigo and violet.
Text by Sonia Dean from European Masterpieces: six centuries of paintings from the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia (exh. cat.), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2000, p. 164.