Camille Pissarro, 1830-1903 was one of the most influential members of the French Impressionist movement, not only as an artist but also as a teacher, and he was the only artist to participate in all eight Impressionist exhibitions.
Born in St. Thomas in the Danish West Indies, Camille was sent to school in Paris at the age of 11 where he displayed a talent for drawing. In 1855, having convinced his parents of his determination to pursue a career as an artist rather than work in the family import/export business, he returned to Paris where he studied at the Academie Suisse alongside Claude Monet.
At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, Camille moved to England. With Monet he painted a series of landscapes around South-East London as well as studying English landscape painters in the museums. When he returned home to Louveciennes a year later, Camille discovered that all but 40 of the 1500 paintings he had left there - almost twenty years’ work – had been vandalized.
In 1872 Camille settled in Pontoise where he remained for the next ten years, gathering a close circle of friends around him. Gauguin was among the many artists to visit him there and Cézanne, who lived nearby, came for long periods to work and learn. These were also the years of the Impressionist group exhibitions in which Camille played a major role, but which earned him much criticism for his art. While mainly interested in landscape, he introduced figures (generally peasants conducting their rural occupations) and animals into his work and these became the focal point of the composition. It was this unsentimental and unliterary approach, and the complete absence of any pretence, that seemed to stop his work from finding appreciation with the general public.
In the last years of his life Camille divided his time between Paris, Rouen, Le Havre and his home in Eragny and painted many series of different aspects of those cities, with varying light and weather effects. Many of these paintings are considered amongst his best and make a fitting finale to his long and eventful career.
When Camille Pissarro died in the autumn of 1903 he had finally started to gain public recognition and today, of course, his work can be found in many of the most important museums and private collections throughout the world.
Camille Pissarro (1830 –1903) was a Danish-French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painter born on the island of St Thomas (now in the US Virgin Islands, but then in the Danish West Indies). His importance resides in his contributions to both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. Pissarro studied from great forerunners, including Gustave Courbet and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. He later studied and worked alongside Georges Seurat and Paul Signac when he took on the Neo-Impressionist style at the age of 54.
In 1873 he helped establish a collective society of fifteen aspiring artists, becoming the “pivotal” figure in holding the group together and encouraging the other members. Art historian John Rewald called Pissarro the “dean of the Impressionist painters", not only because he was the oldest of the group, but also "by virtue of his wisdom and his balanced, kind, and warmhearted personality”. Cézanne said "he was a father for me. A man to consult and a little like the good Lord," and he was also one of Gauguin's masters. Renoir referred to his work as “revolutionary”, through his artistic portrayals of the "common man", as Pissarro insisted on painting individuals in natural settings without "artifice or grandeur".
Pissarro is the only artist to have shown his work at all eight Paris Impressionist exhibitions, from 1874 to 1886. He "acted as a father figure not only to the Impressionists" but to all four of the major Post-Impressionists, including Georges Seurat, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin.