Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
AKA: Jacob Camille Pissarro
Born: July 10, 1830;St. Thomas, West Indies
Died: November 13, 1903; Paris
Biography of Camille Pissarro
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) was born in St. Thomas in the West Indies, the son of a Creole mother and a father of Portuguese-Jewish descent.
He worked as a clerk in his father’s general store until in 1852 when he ran away to Venezuela with a Danish painter, after which his reluctant parents resigned themselves to his becoming an artist.
He arrived in Paris in 1855, in time to see the great exhibition at the World Fair (when Courbet exhibited his rejected pictures independently). Soon afterwards he met Corot, by whom he was deeply influenced, although by 1866 Corot disapproved of the way that the younger landscape painters were going, and was particularly severe about Pissarro’s connection with Courbet and Monet. He met Monet in 1859, and in 1863 several of his pictures were in the Salon des Refuss.
From 1866 to 1869, he worked at Pontoise on landscapes painted entirely in the open, but he could sell almost nothing and he and his family lived in the most cruel poverty. In 1870, he fled before the German invasion, first to Brittany and then to London, where eventually news reached him that his house in Louveciennes had been used as a butchery by the invaders, and his store of 200 to 300 pictures used as duckboards in the muddy garden.
In 1872, Cézanne joined him in Pontoise and worked with him, with a radical effect on his own style. In 1874, he took part in the first Impressionist Exhibition: he was the only one who exhibited in all eight, and it was he who introduced first Gauguin, then Seurat and Signac into the Impressionist exhibitions, with consequent disruption among the group. He was much influenced from 1884 by Seurat’s theories of optical mixture, which he used until 1888, when he declared that the method ‘inhibits me and hinders the development of spontaneity of sensation’. From 1895, the worsening of his eyetrouble forced him to give up working out-of-doors, and he painted many town views from windows in Paris; he died blind.
His production was enormous and in all techniques chiefly oil painting, but he also used pastel, gouache, drawing in all media, etching, and lithography. Of all the Impressionists, he was the most consistent: he never compromised, he did his best to compose the bitter quarrels which broke out around him, he never blamed any for their defections, intolerance, impatience, and occasional spites. In return, they gave him respect and admiration for his principles as much as for his art.
There are paintings by him all over the world, in almost every museum of modern art. His son Lucien (1863-1944) followed in his father’s stylistic footsteps. He settled in England in 1890, where he founded the Eragny Press (named after his father’s final home) in 1896 and exerted great influence on book illustration and printing in this country. He was a member of the NEAC and the Camden Town Group. His daughter, known as Orovida (1893-1968), was also a painter.