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Pissarro Paintings – A Continually Evolving Painter

Some of Pissarro’s paintings show elements of Impressionism, others Post-Impressionism and later works, Neo-impressionism. He enjoyed experimenting with new ideas from the different avant garde art movements.

Camille Pissarro was active in both the Impressionism art movement and the Post-Impressionism art movement that swept through France in the late 19th century. Due to his warm nature and helpful guidance, he was friends to many of the budding and now world-famous French artists of the late 19th century.

Camille Pissarro was the only painter to exhibit in all eight impressionism art exhibitions between 1874 and 1886.

Camille Pissarro Self Portrait
Camille Pissarro Paintings – Self Portrait [Public Domain]

The Early Years of Camille Pissarro

Pissarro was born into a Jewish-Portuguese family and grew up in St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.

His parents owned a modest hardware business and encouraged their four sons to pursue the family trade.

When Pissarro turned 12, he started learning in a boarding school in Passy near Paris, France. His artistic interests began to emerge due to the encouragement of the school’s headmaster, Monsieur Savary.

Pissarro returns to the family business as is expected of him. However after a few years, Pissarro decides to abandon it. In his mid twenties, Pissarro decides to pursue a career as an artist and moves to Paris.

Pissarro returns to Paris in 1855 to pursue painting

Pissarro enrolls into various art classes at both the Académie Suisse and the École des Beaux-Arts. In these institutions he learns both the great masters and modern artists.

However, Pissarro finds art school and their teaching methods confining. So he decides to pursue his art studies outside of school, most notably under the guidance of the French artist, Camille Corot.  Corot inspires Pissarro to practice plein-air painting, which he does and thoroughly embraces.

Pissarro starts painting everything as he views it. The art critics do not accept the vibrant colors in Pissarro’s paintings. Nor do they like that he depicts landscapes with dead trees and other natural flaws.

Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing – Quote Camille Pissarro

Plum Trees in Blossom, Éragny -Camille Pissaro painting - Impressionism art
Camille Pissaro painting s- Impressionism Art [Public Domain]

Over a 1400 Pissarro Paintings are destroyed

During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, Pissarro can not join the French army because of his Danish nationality. He decides to flee France for England.  In 1871, he marries Julie Vellay, his mother’s maid, with whom he will eventually have eight children.

After the war, they return to France and Pissarro discovers that only 40 or so of his 1,500 paintings remain from his 20 years of painting. Sadly, the rest of his paintings were destroyed during the war.

Camille Pissarro - Dans le jardin des Mathurins, Pontoise
Camille Pissarro Paintings [Public Domain]

Pissarro and the Impressionsts

On returning to France, Pissarro and Monet organize the first Impressionism art exhibition in 1874. Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Berthe Morisot and others exhibit their paintings together with them. Their exhibition was not liked by the viewers and the criticism was harsh.

Everything is beautiful, all that matters is to be able to interpret – Quote Camille Pissarro

However the young determined impressionists are undeterred. They continue with their new painting methods and styles despite public scorn.

Les Carrières du Chou, Pontoise - Camille Pissarro Painting
Camille Pissarro Painting [Public Domain]

Pissarro leaves Paris for the countryside and mentors the young emerging artists

Pissarro moves to a small town not far from Paris called Pontoise. His artistic friends come often to visit him. Young Cezanne looks up to Pissarro and considers him his mentor. Often they painted together, and Pissarro patiently guiding Cezanne.

Cezanne says of Pissaro:

“The humble and colossal Pissarro” 

Paul Gauguin, a stockbroker at the time, also admires Pissaro’s artworks and seeks out Pissaro for encouragement and guidance in painting.

In addition, Pissarro teaches and guides the younger American artist, Mary Cassatt who is also active in the circle of impressionist artists.

Pissarro L'Hermitage à Pontoise,1867
Pointoise Landscape by Camille Pissarro [Public Domain]

Pissarro continues to evolve & joins the Post-Impressionists

However, by the 1880s, he is already evolving beyond the Impressionism art movement, and is moving into the neo-impressionism and post-impressionism art movements together with Cezanne, Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and others.  

Old Age and Hotel Rooms

Towards the end of his life, Pissarro has recurring eye infections and can no longer paint outdoors when there is a cold wind. He can only plaint outdoors in warm weather.

Therefore, in order to continue his work all year round, he rents hotel rooms on upper levels throughout Paris and paints these grand birds-eye view city-scapes that he views outside his hotel window.

Montmartre Boulevard - Camille Pissarro Paintings
Montmartre Boulevard – Camille Pissarro Painting [Public Domain]

This worked well for Pissarro and he painted from multiple hotels throughout several cities. 

Pissarro died in 1903 at the age of 73. He was buried in the Jewish section of the cemetery Père Lachaise in Paris.

Camille Pissarro Painting of Paris
Pont Neuf Paris – Camille Pissarro Painting [Public Domain]

Camille Pissarro’s Legacy:

Today Pissarro is acknowledged as one of the greatest French painters of the Impressionism art movement.

He was also revered by several major figures of Post-Impressionism, such as the exotic  Paul Gauguinand Paul Cezanne.

His overall contribution to the history of impressionism art was over-shadowed by other impressionists for a long time. Where Monet was the prolific practitioner of the Impressionist style, Pissarro was considered the key leader of the Impressionist technique.

During the 5 prolific decades of his artistic career, Pissarro painted over 3,000 paintings in oils, tempera, pastels, watercolors and gouache.

In addition, he created hundreds of fine art prints.

Where to View Pissarro’s Paintings in France

Today the most prestigious art museums all around the world are exhibiting Camille Pissarro’s paintings.

Museums in Paris

If you are traveling to Paris, you can view wonderful collections of Pissarro in the following art museums:

Travelling to Normandy?

The Musée d’art moderne André Malraux in Le Havre

You will see a fabulous variety of Pissarro paintings in the Le Havre Impressionist Museum (MuMa) . It has the second largest impressionism art collection after the D’Orsay Museum. I highly recommend!

Are you looking for an organized tour to Le Havre, Normandy from Paris that includes the MuMa museum? Press the link for a fantastic day trip option.

Rouen’s Musée des Beaux-Arts ( The Museum of Fine Arts)

If you are a fan of Impressionism art, then you MUST visit Rouen’s Museum of Fine Arts . This museum showcases an impressive impressionist collection including paintings of Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley and others. For more information about opening hours, ticket prices and current exhibitions, press here.

For more information about Camille Pissarro, click here.

Self-Portrait with Beret and Spectacles - 1903 - Camille Pissarro
Camille Pissarro Self-Portrait [Public Domain]