During his visit to Rouen in 1898, his concentration was mainly focused on scenes from the port, harbour and river. Rue de l'Épicerie, Rouen (Effect of Sunlight), depicts a scene from 'grocery street' on a cloudy market day morning with Notre Dame cathedral, Rouen as the back-drop. Pissarro painted two other versions of the same scene under different light conditions. Both of these are held in private collections.
Many of the usual impressionistic effects are used in this work. The colour theory of the time sacrifices pictorial detail – outline and detail are sacrificed to reflect optical reality. The painting appears to be rapidly executed and gives an impression of spontaneity and vigour.
The oil paint is applied thickly with visible shorter brush-strokes and this 'impasto' effect gives a three-dimensional quality. As can be seen in the market goers themselves, the short, thick brushstrokes give an impression of the scene rather than a detailed analysis. The overall image quality is diffuse and avoids any sharp edges – this is particularly striking nearer the top of the Market Street where the tones seem to melt into each other.
Many of Pissarro's paintings of this period are from an elevated perspective and this one is not an exception. It has been suggested that Pissarro chose not to paint outdoors because of his vulnerability to eye infections. With age, he had also developed an aversion to the hubbub of urban environments. Pissarro certainly seems aloof and detached, caring more about the different qualities of light rather than engaging with the urban environment itself. Again, this is a different aspect of his painting subjects as he moves away from his liking for portraying the poverty and hard work of rural peasants.
Rue de l'Épicerie is an experimental piece that plays with shapes and styles, exhibiting a range of skills from an accomplished artist. The focal point of the painting is where the marketgoers disappear and forms the tip of a triangle. Above, the street buildings are depicted with simple areas of colour whilst the cathedral is delineated by more traditional impressionistic techniques. Because of the perspective and different styles, the painting appears to be disjointed. Some commentators believe that this presages the cubism of Braque and Picasso. Whether this is true, Pissarro has certainly moved beyond his neo-classical pointillist phase influenced by his work with Georges Seurat and Paul Signac.