Camille Pissarro Paintings

1830 - 1903

Camille Pissarro was born to a Creole mother and French father. At the age of 12, he crossed the Atlantic when his family sent him to France to complete his education. At a boarding school in Passy, he was given free rein to his emerging passion for drawing by the head of the school, Monsieur Savary. Savary, who prided himself on being an artist, encouraged the young Pissarro to draw from nature and taught him ‘the best principles of direct observation’. In 1847, when Pissarro was almost 17 years old, his father summoned him back to St Thomas to introduce him to a career in business. However, in his leisure time, the young artist continued to sketch sailors unloading ships in the port. After a chance meeting with the Danish painter Fritz Melbye (1826–1896), Pissarro abandoned his father’s hardware business and followed Melbye to Caracas, where he devoted himself entirely to painting. In 1855, he visited the Exposition Universelle in Paris, where he saw the work of Eugène Delacroix, Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, Charles-François Daubigny, and Jean-François Millet. Although he received encouragement from Corot, Pissarro at first frequented the studios of Salon painters but soon began to associate with the plein-air artists. He also made friends with Ludovic Piette and the Puerto Rican painter Francisco Oller. At the suggestion of Corot and Melbye’s brother Anton, a waterscape and landscape painter, Pissarro set up his easel in Montmartre and in the area around Paris. The simplest of subjects sufficed. He became an attentive observer of the changing hours and seasons. It was around this time that he began to associate with Claude Monet, Armand Guillaumin, and Paul Cézanne. He also associated with Édouard Manet and occasionally attended the gatherings at Café Guerbois.

Pissarro also spent time outside Paris, namely in Montmorency, Varenne-St-Hilaire, Pontoise, and Louveciennes. During the Prussian invasion (when his house in Louveciennes was looted and his artwork was destroyed) and the Paris Commune (1870–1871), he took refuge in London, where he met Monet. The two artists became great admirers of J. M. W. Turner’s works at the National Gallery. In London, the two painters met Daubigny, who introduced them to the dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. On his return to France, Pissarro settled in Pontoise, and in order to live and provide for his family, he often called on art dealers such as Pierre-Firmin Martin, Durand-Ruel, and Julien-François Tanguy. In 1874, Pissarro and his friends organised the first Impressionist exhibition at Félix Nadar’s gallery. The title of a seascape by Claude Monet called Impression Sunrise inspired the critic of the magazine Charivari to name this group of artists the Impressionists. For many years the Impressionists encountered hostility and incomprehension. In 1882, Pissarro left Pontoise. He moved to Osny and later to Éragny-Bazincourt near Gisors. He also worked in Paris and Rouen, where he painted the old streets, the port, and the surrounding area. When fame finally came to him he was already over 60 years old and suffering from dacryocystitis, an eye condition. He was also a longtime supporter of anarchism, even supplying lithographic illustrations for the anarchist journal Temps nouveaux, edited by Jean Grave.

At the 1859 Salon, Pissarro exhibited Montmorency Landscape. In 1863, he exhibited at the Salon des Refusés (an exhibition of work that had been rejected by the Paris Salon) alongside Manet, Henri Fantin-Latour, Johan Barthold Jongkind, and James McNeill Whistler. His work was accepted at the Salons held in 1864, 1865, 1866, 1868, and 1869. From 1874 onwards, he exhibited with the Impressionists.

In his early career, Pissarro used a sombre palette, and the solidity of his landscapes and their simplified planes brought his style closer to Courbet than to Corot. With time his palette grew lighter as he removed the heavy, earthy tones. By 1866, his artistic identity was beginning to take shape. Pissarro’s technique was developing and moving towards that of newcomers such as Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Alfred Sisley. For some years Pissarro and Monet had been instinctively juxtaposing the delicate nuances perceived by the subtlety of their artistic sensitivity. By 1870, Pissarro was already dividing his tones, and the paintings by Turner he had seen in London only confirmed him in his endeavours, as they did Monet’s. Now living in Pontoise, he became a passionate observer of peasant life, recounting their labours and daily routines with a sincerity, openness, and naive charm that the public found disconcerting. Cézanne was living at Auvers-sur-Oise, and the two painters shared their endeavours and began using long, flat, flexible knives for painting. In the 1890s, during the spring and summer, Pissarro painted his garden at Éragny, his house, the village around it, and the banks of the Epte. In winter he lived in Paris and observed the busy, gaudy spectacle on the Boulevard des Italiens, the Place du Théâtre Français, the Avenue de l’Opéra, the Tuilieries, and the Carrousel. He visited London, Beauvais, Dieppe, and Rouen and enjoyed painting the typical aspects of these towns and cities.

Technically, Pissarro experimented with various media throughout his career, often working in watercolour to convey the busy streets, the marketplaces of small towns, and scenes of rural life and using pencil, pastel, gouache, and even distemper to retain the original freshness of his impressions. Pissarro was always interested in new techniques and keen to give them a rigorous trial. Following his experiments with Cézanne in using a knife to apply pigment, he adopted the systematic division of colour used by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. However, his work lost its suppleness and spontaneity as a result, and after two years of painting in the ‘divisionist’ style of the Neo-Impressionists, he returned to more fluid strokes, using long sable brushes. Pissarro was also an accomplished etcher and lithographer, producing a large number of plates – almost 200 – most of which are striking for their transparency and lightness of tone, their keen observation of nature, and the suppleness and originality of their technique.

Pissarro worked from a wide range of subjects and sources, and his nudes and portraits are just as accomplished as his still-lifes and landscapes. However, he was criticised for allowing himself to be influenced by others. He did indeed succumb to the influence of Corot’s work, the musicality of his colours and his serenity, and to the powerful, intense spirit of Courbet. However, Pissarro transformed these influences to create his own style. He was accused of imitating Millet when he painted peasants, yet Millet’s peasants are romanticised whereas Pissarro painted in a Realist style, grand yet domestic. As an Impressionist, Pissarro was closer to Cézanne than to Monet, emphasising form rather than dissolving matter in order to extract from it subtle essences of colour. He shared the clarity and purity of Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism, but as a Realist with a tendency towards Materialism, he did not share their attraction for ephemeral impression.

Group Exhibitions

1859, 1864, 1866, 1868–1869, Salon, Paris
1863, Salon des Refusés, Paris
1874–1886, Impressionist exhibitions, Paris
1910, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris (Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley)
1928, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris (Pissarro, Cassatt)
2000, Impression: Painting Quickly in France, 1860–1890, National Gallery, London
2005, Pioneering Modern Painting: Cézanne & Pissarro, 1865–1885, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Solo Exhibitions

1893, 1904, 1956, 1962, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris
1921, Galeries Nunès et Fiquet, Paris
1927, 1955, 1967, Leicester Galleries, London
1927, Max Bine, Paris
1930, Orangerie, Paris
1944, Carstairs Gallery, New York
1950, Matthiesen Gallery, London
1957, Kunstmuseum, Bern
1965, Berlin Gallery, New York
1965, Wildenstein, New York
1968, Marlborough Fine Art, London
1980, 1993, J.P.L. Fine Arts, London
1980–1981, Hayward Gallery, London, and Grand Palais, Paris
1984, Isetan Museum of Art, Tokyo
1989, Musée Pissarro, Pontoise
1992, Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas
2003, Stern Pissarro Gallery, London
2003–2004, Städtische Galerie, Böblingen
2005, Art Gallery of North South Wales, Sydney
2006, Museum of Art, Baltimore (MD)
2007, Jewish Museum, New York
2011, Pissarro’s People, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown (MA)
2011, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth (TX)

Museum and Gallery Holdings

Basel (Kunstsammlung): Village near Pontoise
Belgrade: Avenue de l’Opéra (1898)
Berlin: Houses in the Country near the Hermitage on the Outskirts of Paris
Boston (MFA): Morning Sun on Snow; Village by a River, prints
Bremen (Kunsthalle): Landscape; Soleil de Mars (Pontoise) (1875)
Bucharest (Muz. National de Arta al României): Orchard with Apple Trees in Blossom and Figures
Budapest: Pont-Neuf, Paris
Charlottenlund (Ordrupgaard): Plum Trees in Blossom at Éragny (1894)
Dieppe: View of the Outer Harbour at Dieppe
Douai: Footpath with Cabbages
Florence (Gal. d’Arte Moderna): Two Landscapes
Fort Worth, TX (Kimbell AM): Near Sydenham Hill (1871, oil on canvas)
Hamburg (Kunsthalle): Resting in the Wood (Pontoise) (1878)
Hanover (Niedersächsisches Landesmus.): Landscape
Leipzig: Place du Théâtre Français
London (NG): View from Louveciennes (1869–1870, oil on canvas); The Côte des Boeufs at L’Hermitage (1877, oil on canvas); A Wool-Carder (1880, oil/cement, on loan from the Tate Collection since 1997); Portrait of Félix Pissarro (1881, oil on canvas, on loan from the Tate Collection since 1997); The Little Country Maid (1882, oil on canvas, on loan from the Tate Collection since 1997); The Pork Butcher (1883, oil on canvas, on loan from the Tate Collection since 1997); The Boulevard Montmartre at Night (1897, oil on canvas); The Louvre under Snow (1902, oil on canvas)
London (Tate Collection): A Corner of the Meadow at Eragny (1902, oil on canvas); The Pilots’ Jetty, Le Havre, Morning, Cloudy and Misty Weather (1903, oil on canvas); Self-portrait (1903, oil on canvas); works on loan at the National Gallery
Los Angeles (County MA): Place du Théâtre Français (1898)
Mannheim (Städtische Kunsthalle): View of Pontoise, Pothuis Quay (1868); Little Bridge (1875)
Melbourne: Boulevard Montmartre
Montreal (MBA): View of the Oissel Cottonworks on the Outskirts of Rouen
Moscow (Mus. of Western Art): Boulevard Montparnasse (several landscapes)
Munich (Pinakothek): Upper Norwood Road with Vehicle (Cloudy Weather) (1871)
New York (Brooklyn MA): Climbing Path, l’Hermitage, Pontoise (1875)
New York (Metropolitan MA): Morning, An Overcast Day, Rouen (1896); Rue de l’Epicerie, Rouen (1898)
New York (Public Library): prints
Otterlo (Kröller-Müller Mus.): Rainbow (1877); Early February Sun over Bazincourt (1893)
Oxford (Ashmolean): prints
Paris (Bibliothèque Nationale): prints
Paris (Louvre): The Louveciennes Coach (1870); Road (1870); Louveciennes Road (1872); Portrait of the Artist (1873); Red Roofs (Corner of the Village in Winter) (1877); Vegetable Garden and Trees in Blossom, Spring (Pontoise) (1877); St-Jacques Church, Dieppe (1901); Towpath (1902); Peasant Woman Sitting; Entrance to a Village; Frost at Auvers-sur-Oise; The Pont Royal and Flora’s Pavilion; Pontoise; Harvest; Path through the Woods in Summer; Cart; Path Climbing through the Fields; Wash House
Philadelphia, PA (MA): Île Lacroix, Rouen, in Fog (1888)
Prague (Národní Gal.): Landscape at Éragny
Rheims: Avenue de l’Opéra (1897)
Rotterdam (Mus. Boijmans Van Beuningen): Heights of Auvers (c. 1862); The Oise near Pontoise
St Petersburg (Hermitage): Place du Théâtre Français in Spring (1898)
Vannes: Peasant Woman in the Fields
Vienna (Österreichische Gal. Belvedere): Street in Éragny
West Palm Beach, FL (Norton MA): Garden of the Parsonage at Knocke, Flanders (1894, oil on canvas)
Winterthur: The Boulevard Montmartre at a Mardi Gras (1897)