French Impressionist Painter
1830 - 1903
Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.
Don't be afraid in nature: one must be bold, at the risk of having been deceived and making mistakes.
Everything is beautiful, all that matters is to be able to interpret.
It is only by drawing often, drawing everything, drawing incessantly, that one fine day you discover to your surprise that you have rendered something in its true character.
When you do a thing with your whole soul and everything that is noble within you, you always find your counterpart.
All the sorrows, all the bitternesses, all the sadnesses, I forget them and ignore them in the joy of working.
It is absurd to look for perfection.
Camille Pissarro was a French Impressionist painter. His importance resides not only in his visual contributions to Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, but also in his patriarchal standing among his colleagues, particularly Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin.
Jacob-Abraham-Camille Pissarro was born on the island of Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands, to Abraham Gabriel Pissarro, a Portuguese Sephardic Jew, and Rachel Manzano-Pomié, from the Dominican Republic. Pissarro lived in Saint Thomas until age 12, when he went to a boarding school in Paris. He returned to Saint Thomas where he spent his free time. Pissarro was attracted to political anarchy, an attraction that may have originated during his years in Saint Thomas. In 1852, he traveled to Venezuela with the Danish artist Fritz Melbye. In 1855, Pissarro left for Paris, where he studied at various academic institutions (including the École des Beaux-Arts and Académie Suisse) and under a succession of masters, such as Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, and Charles-François Daubigny. Corot is sometimes considered Pissarro's most important early influence; Pissarro listed himself as Corot's pupil in the catalogues to the 1864 and 1865 Paris Salons.
His finest early works (See Jalais Hill, Pontoise, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) are characterized by a broadly painted (sometimes with palette knife) naturalism derived from Courbet, but with an incipient Impressionist palette.
Pissarro married Julie Vellay, a maid in his mother's household. Of their eight children, one died at birth and one daughter died aged nine. The surviving children all painted, and Lucien, the oldest son, became a follower of William Morris.
The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 compelled Pissarro to flee his home in Louveciennes in September 1870; he returned in June 1871 to find that the house, and along with it many of his early paintings, had been destroyed by Prussian soldiers. Initially his family was taken in by a fellow artist in Montfoucault, but by December 1870 they had taken refuge in London and settled at Westow Hill in Upper Norwood (today better known as Crystal Palace, near Sydenham). A Blue Plaque currently marks the site of the house on the building at 77a Westow Hill.
Through the paintings Pissarro completed at this time, we can glimpse back to the days when Sydenham was a small satellite town recently connected to the capital by the arrival of the railway. One of the most appreciated of these paintings is a view of Saint Bartholomew's Church at the end of Lawrie Park Avenue, commonly known as The Avenue, Sydenham, in the collection of the London National Gallery. Twelve oil paintings date from his stay in Upper Norwood and are listed and illustrated in the catalogue raisonné prepared jointly by his fifth child Ludovic-Rodolphe Pissarro and Lionello Venturi and published in 1939. These paintings include Norwood Under the Snow, and Lordship Lane Station, views of The Crystal Palace relocated from Hyde Park, Dulwich College, Sydenham Hill, All Saints Church, and a lost painting of Saint Stephen's Church.
This work depicts a scene that is little changed today. The painting conveys the atmosphere of an early spring day, with oak trees coming into leaf against a soft blue sky.
Technical analysis shows that the main outlines of the landscape were painted first and the figures added over the paint that had dried.
Surprisingly, Pissarro chose to relegate what had been labeled the world's largest building to the left portion of the composition, while giving equal space to the recently constructed middle-class homes at the right and to the families and carriages parading down the street in the center. Perhaps the artist, who typically depicted rural settings, was initially captivated by the play of sunlight across two very different forms of contemporary construction; he established a striking juxtaposition between Paxton's impressive edifice and the ordinary row houses across the way by focusing on atmosphere rather than on disparity of scale. Rendering the Crystal Palace in a range of translucent, aquatic blues that blend into the swirling sky beyond, Pissarro lent the spectacular exhibition hall a light airiness that contrasts with the weighty solidity of the brick residences. Yet the painting accommodates both, presenting a balanced view of a unique, suburban landscape.
The following is based on an extract of the history of Saint Stephen's entitled 'The story of St Stephen's Church South Dulwich, a beacon in times of Peace and War (by Michael Goodman, 2007, available on sale from the parish office)
Not long after Saint Stephen's was built, an event of subsequent significance occurred when Camille Pissarro, the renowned French Impressionist painter, brought his family to England to avoid the rigors of the Franco-Prussian war. In a letter to his friend Wynford Dewhurst in 1902 he wrote: 'In l870 I found myself in London with (Claude) Monet, and we met Daubigny and Bonvin. Monet and I were very enthusiastic over the London landscapes. Monet worked in the park' - he in fact stayed at The Savoy Hotel - 'while I, living in Lower Norwood, at that time a charming suburb, studied the effects of fog, snow and springtime.' During the time he was here, Pissarro painted several scenes in the Dulwich area, including 'Dulwich College', 'Crystal Palace Parade' and 'Lordship Lane Station' with a steam train very much in evidence, running past. In particular, he painted Saint Stephen's Church from what is now College Road, looking up the hill with the church on the right and the Crystal Palace looming over the trees in the distance (now the site of the BBC Television Mast!). The wood remains one of the few areas untouched since Pissarro's day by the spread of the city, save that the once tranquil scene is now disturbed by the rows of parked motor cars left there by commuters using Sydenham Hill Station.
While in Upper Norwood, Pissarro was introduced to the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, who bought two of his 'London' paintings. Durand-Ruel subsequently became the most important art dealer of the new school of French Impressionism.
In 1890 Pissarro returned to England and painted some ten scenes of central London. He came back again in 1892, painting in Kew Gardens and Kew Green, and also in 1897, when he produced several oils of Bedford Park, Chiswick.
Known as the "Father of Impressionism", Pissarro painted rural and urban French life, particularly landscapes in and around Pontoise, as well as scenes from Montmartre. His mature work displays an empathy for peasants and laborers, and sometimes evidences his radical political leanings. He was a mentor to Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin and his example inspired many younger artists, including Californian Impressionist Lucy Bacon.
Pissarro's influence on his fellow Impressionists is probably still underestimated; not only did he offer substantial contributions to Impressionist theory, but he also managed to remain on friendly, mutually respectful terms with such difficult personalities as Edgar Degas, Cézanne and Gauguin. Pissarro exhibited at all eight of the Impressionist exhibitions. Moreover, whereas Monet was the most prolific and emblematic practitioner of the Impressionist style, Pissarro was nonetheless a primary developer of Impressionist technique.
Pissarro experimented with Neo-Impressionist ideas between 1885 and 1890. Discontented with what he referred to as "Romantic Impressionism," he investigated Pointillism which he called "Scientific Impressionism" before returning to a purer Impressionism in the last decade of his life.
In March 1893, in Paris, Gallery Durand-Ruel organized a major exhibition of 46 of Pissarro's works along with 55 others by Antonio de La Gandara. But while the critics acclaimed Gandara, their appraisal of Pissarro's art was less enthusiastic.
Pissarro died in Éragny-sur-Epte on either November 12 or November 13, 1903 and was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. On his tomb it reads November 12, 1903.
During his lifetime, Camille Pissarro sold few of his paintings. By 2005, however, some of his works were selling in the range of U.S. $2 to 4 million.
Standing by the western point of the Île de la Cité, the island in the middle of the river that was the heart of medieval Paris, it connects the Rive Gauche of Paris with the Rive Droite.
The bridge is composed of two separate spans, one of five arches joining the left bank to the Île de la Cité, another of seven joining the island to the right bank. Old engraved maps of Paris show how, when the bridge was built, it just grazed the downstream tip of the Île de la Cité; since then, the natural sandbar building of a mid-river island, aided by stone-faced embankments called quais, has extended the island. Today the island is the Square du Vert-Galant, a park named in honor of Henry IV, nicknamed the "Green Gallant."
Being settled in an apartment, rather than frequently moving between short-term accommodations, allowed Pissarro to spend more time working on a particular series of paintings, and to meditate and experiment with the subject matter. This resulted in a great variation within the series, as the artist was able to observe and depict his subject in different weather conditions, and in different seasons and times of the day. Moving from one window to the next, the artist captured the urban landscape in front of him from three slightly different vantage points, thus creating three distinctive views within the Tuileries series: a frontal viewpoint showing the Bassins des Tuileries a view of the Louvre's Pavillon de Flore and the southern wing, Aile Denon, and, moving eastwards, a view of the Pavillon de Marsan to the left, with Jardin du Carrousel in the centre and the Aile Denon in the background, as in the present work.
Having completed a series of the Boulevard Montmartre, with its wide spaces pulsating with horse-drawn carriages, pedestrians and other signs of the busy life of the metropolis, in the Tuileries series Pissarro took pleasure in painting the calmer, greener parts of Paris, in depicting nature within the city. This series, representing bastions of art and tradition such as the Louvre, stand in contrast to Pissarro's paintings of the new areas of Paris, recently transformed and modernized by the popular boulevards designed by Baron Hausmann. The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, visible in the middle distance of the present work, was built in the first decade of the nineteenth century, to commemorate the Napoleonic victories of 1805. Based on the Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome, it stands as a romantic symbol of the French empire and its grandeur. With its fascinating architecture and history, the Jardin des Tuileries captured the imagination of other Impressionist artists, including Claude Monet who, in 1876, depicted a view from the apartment only a few doors away from that occupied by Pissarro, at 198 rue de Rivoli.
During this period, Pissarro began working in series, a practice initiated by Monet several years earlier and exemplified in his famous 'Stacks of Wheat'. Pissarro typically began such canvases on site, recording significant atmospheric effects, and then finished them in his studio. He depicted Paris several times throughout his career, rendering metropolitan activity in a full range of seasons and weather conditions, much as he had done for more rustic settings. The 'Place du Havre' is among the largest of the Paris compositions, all of which feature a high vantage point. Pissarro wrote of this series in 1898: "Perhaps it is not really aesthetic, but I am delighted to be able to try to do these Paris streets which people usually call ugly, but which are so silvery, so luminous, and so vital. . . . This is so completely modern."
Pissarro belonged to a movement now termed, 'anarchist-communism' that incorporated beliefs from economic communism and individual anarchism. Besides being friends with Mirbeau, Pissarro also gave substantial financial assistance to Jean Grave, the dominant figure in the French anarchist-communist movement. These anarchists thought that man worked best in small groups, with communal, rather than national, collective ownership. In Pissarro: His Life and Work, Ralph Shikes explains that "anarchism was opposed to all authoritative institutions that curbed man's freedom - the state (especially), the church, private property, even, some anarchists believed, the family". Critics isolate Pissarro's anarchism to his earlier rural works, linking his idealized, idyllic scenes without machinery to his belief in a peaceful society founded on rural communities. This easy connection between anarchism and rural imagery satisfies most art historians, but limits any political expression to only a part of Pissarro's paintings; during the last eight years of his life, Pissarro departed from his rural topics and painted eleven series set in Paris, Rouen, Le Havre, and Dieppe. However, Pissarro's anarchist views extended far beyond the timeframe of his rural period. This affinity for the anarchists is perhaps most evident in his stance during the Dreyfus Affair, when he sided with the Dreyfusards against the Army and Church, institutions he regarded as corrupt.
Before his premature death in London in 1897, Félix worked as a painter, engraver and caricaturist under the pseudonym Jean Roch.
Eugenie Estruc (1863-1931) known affectionately as 'Nini' in the Pissarro family, was the niece of Pissarro's wife Julie who had been a maid to Pissarro's mother. Like her aunt, Nini was Christian and of peasant stock. Pissarro drew, painted, and etched Nini.
On the 22nd July 1883, Pissarro writes to his eldest son Lucien, 'I had Nini pose as a butcher's girl at the Place du Grand Martoy; the painting will have, I hope a certain naive freshness'.
The portrait hung in Pissarro's studio until his death in 1903.
After his father's death, Paulemile moved with his mother to their summer home near Eragny. Eragny was a mere 30 km from Giverny, the home of his father's closest friend, Claude Monet. And, as he grew older, it was to Monet that Paulemile gravitated, adopting him both as a father figure, teacher, and friend. And it was Monet, as much or more than his father, who was to influence his art as the youngest Pissarro yearned to follow in his father's footsteps. Paulemile exhibited for the first time in the 1905 Salon des Independants. The entry was an Impressionist landscape entitled Bords de l'Epte a Eragny. But, like most young artists, despite his family name and in his case, no pleas from his father not to use it, Paulemile struggled. It was a struggle his mother recognized all too well, and a life she hated. It was not one she wished to pass on to her son. She encouraged him to give up his art. For a time, Paulemile worked as an auto mechanic and test driver, later as a lace and textile designer. His work allowed him virtually no time to paint.
It was his oldest brother, Lucien, who rescued him. He wrote from London and asked Paulemile to send him some early watercolors. Perhaps because of the Pissarro name, the work quickly sold to British collectors. Paulemile quit the lace factory, married, and spent the W.W. I years painting in the north of France (illness kept from military service) and selling his work through his brother in London. The individuality and confidence he acquired during this time, along with the teachings of Monet and the strong influence of Cézanne in his work, made him immensely popular, especially in England. His older brother shepherded his career, gaining him entrance into the New English Art Club, The Allied Artists' Association, and the Baillie Gallery, where his work sold steadily. In France, along with his close friends van Gongen, Vlaminck, de Segonzac, and Raoul Dufy, he became one of the stars of Postimpressionism. He adopted the palette knife over the brush as his preferred painting tool and, more than his father's or even Monet's work, his own painting began to resemble more closely that of Cézanne.
The 1920's and 1930's were to be the strongest period in Paulemile Pissarro's painting career. In 1930 he divorced his first wife and married a second. They purchased a home near Clecy on the Orne River in the area of hills and valleys known as Swiss Normandy. There they raised three children - two sons and a daughter. His oldest son, Hugues-Claude also became a painter. In 1967, Paulemile Pissarro had his first one-man show in the United States at the Wally Findlay Galleries in New York, which led to wide recognition and success in this country, far in excess of that of his brothers, or even his father during his lifetime. The last of the first-generation Pissarros, Paulemile died in 1972, and today his work often rivals his father's in popularity with collectors and museums. In all this, one has to wonder how much of his success can be attributed to being the "baby" in the family.
Born in 1878, Ludovic-Rodolphe Pissarro, it could be argued, may have had too many influences. Unlike his older brother, Lucien, Rodo never seemed to settle into a single groove (or rut, depending upon one's view) but instead, found himself constantly turning to new things, often before completely mastering any of them. Of all his father's sons, Rodo was closest to him, the only one to be with him at his death in 1903. After that, Rodo followed Lucien to London where they shared studio space and despite his family's position in the art world, he struggled as an artist. In Paris, he displayed at the 1905 Salon des Indépendants as a Fauvist, though in all likelihood he was not enough of a Fauvist to gain much notice. In London, several times he was rejected by the New English Art Club. His paintings of London street life rendered through windows several floors up are fascinating, if hardly remarkable. In 1915, with the help of his brother and a few friends, he started their own club, calling it the Monarro Group, formed specifically as an alternative means of gaining public recognition for their work. Perhaps too, Ludovic-Rodo struggled because, like all his brothers, except for Lucien, he was encouraged by his father not to trade upon the Pissarro name.
Though Rodo could hardly be considered a failure as an artist, his star was perhaps the least lustrous of all the Pissarro offspring. And though he was unable to polish his own work and image as an artist, his long, diligent, scholarly effort in pulling together his father's vast exploration of various forms of artistic expression has added immeasurably to the understanding and luster of Camille Pissarro's oeuvre and indirectly, to that of the entire family. Ludovic-Rodo died in 1952 having acquiesced to the fact that he was a Pissarro in name only, and hardly that. Yet ironically, his literary contribution to the art world may well be remembered long after the paintings of his more talented siblings have long been forgotten.
Source: Art Renewal Center
Source: Camille Pissarro Online
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