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 Camille Pissarro  (1830 - 1903)

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Lived/Active: France      Known for: impressionist urban and rural scene painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Camille Pissarro was born in 1830 on the Island of St.Thomas, a then-Danish colony of the Antilles (now the United States Virgin Islands). His family background was mixed French, Portuguese and Jewish. He was sent to Paris to school when he was twelve. Although at an early age he wanted to make art his career, his father sent for him in 1847 to return to St. Thomas and for the next five years the young Pissarro was engaged against his will in the family business. In 1852 he went to Venezuela with Fritz Melbye, an artist, and brought back various sketches. Going to Paris in 1855 he made the acquaintance of Corot and fell under his influence. A realist at heart, he followed Corot's advice always to paint out of doors.

By 1866 he had met Cezanne, Renoir and Sisley and was a member of the group that frequented the Cafe Guerbois - a group of artists, critics and congenial men that centered about Manet. He had also married (the family maid, Julie) and settled at Pontoise, near Paris. They had eight children, of the eight, Lucien, Georges, Felix, Ludovico Rodolph, Paul-Emile and a daughter, Orovida, were artists. Each of his children and the grandchildren were encouraged daily to draw everything they saw.

When the War of 1870 broke out, he went to London and his studio was pillaged by the Germans and his early work destroyed. He studied Turner while he was in England, together with Monet he helped to develop the theories of Impressionism. He was the only impressionist to show in all seven of the impressionist exhibitions. For a time he followed the methods of Seurat and became identified with the Neo-Impressionists. His best work was done from 1892 to 1903, his last period and most original one. He died in 1903 at the age of seventy-three.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources include:
Masterpieces of Art, Catalogue of the New York World's Fair 1940
Metropolitan Museum of Art Miniatures: French Impressionists
From the internet,
Camille Pissarro, The Generous Radical Remembered by John Gainsborough, magazine and date unknown
Time magazine, September 10, 1956
Pissarro the Patriarch, article by Mark Stevens in Newsweek magazine, June 1, 1981

Biography from South Coast Fine Art:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Camille Pissarro was a key member of the French Impressionist group of painters.  He was born in St. Thomas in the West Indies, where his father was a prosperous merchant.  Pissarro received his early education at a boarding school near Paris where he displayed a talent for drawing.  In 1852, he left for Venezuela in the company of the Danish painter Fritz Melbye, and worked as an artist there for two years.

Pissarro settled in France in 1855.  He arrived in time to see the great Exposition Universelle (World's Fair), which included a large art section.  Following the advice of Camille Corot, whose landscapes he had admired at the fair, Pissarro was soon painting and sketching in small towns and villages near Paris, along the Seine, Oise and Marne rivers.  He studied at the Académie Suisse and formed friendships with Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, and other future members of the Impressionist group.  By the late 1860s, his powerful realist landscapes were praised by the prominent critic Emile Zola.

Pissarro gradually abandoned Neo-Impressionism in the 1890s, preferring a style that better enabled him to capture his sensations of nature, although retaining the lightness and purity of color acquired during his divisionist phase.  In the last years of his life Camille divided his time between Paris, Rouen, Le Havre and his home in Eragny and painted several series of different aspects of the cities with varying light and weather effects, while expressing the dynamism of the modern city.  Many of these paintings are considered amongst his best and make a fitting finale to his long and eventful career.

Camille Pissarro was actively painting up until the end of his life.  He died in the autumn of 1903 in Paris at the age of 73.

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