French painter Camille Pissarro was one of the founders of Impressionism and well known for his popular rural scenes. A mentor to Paul Cezanne and Paul Gauguin, his example inspired many young artists, including Californian Impressionist Lucy Bacon.
Camille Pissarro was born July 10, 1830 on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, (Danish West Indies) to Abraham Gabriel Pissarro and Rachel Manzano-Pomié, a descendant of Sephardic Jewish ancestry.
After six years in a boarding school in France, Pissarro came home to work in his parents’ store. Sketching as often as he could, he yearned to travel and pursue a career in the arts, but his parents had other plans in mind for him. One day, without warning, he and Danish painter Fritz Melbye sailed away to Venezuela. Although he knew his parents would be disappointed, he felt he had to escape the bondage of bourgeois life in order to pursue his dream.
Under Melbye's influence and direction, Pissarro produced numerous paintings and watercolors, as well as countless drawings during his time in Venezuela. His parents finally extended their support and offered to fund his studies. In 1855, he studied at various academic institutions (including the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and Académie Suisse) under a succession of masters, one of whom was Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot.
Camille Pissarro was intrigued by artists who did not conform to the widely accepted painting styles of that time. Upon meeting Monet, new insight and encouragement emerged. While he showed his work at the official Salon throughout the 1860s, he also participated in the historic Salon des Refusés in 1863. His paintings were not praised, but he refused to be deterred. He participated in his last official Salon in 1870.
From 1866 to 68, Camille Pissarro lived and worked in Pontoise changing landscape painting from the Barbizon Realism of Corot to Impressionism. In 1870, a move to Louveciennes would prove disasterous when many of his paintings were destroyed by the German troops during the city’s occupation during the Franco-Prussian War.
Pissarro’s painting methods changed as he began to use smaller patches of paint, privileging the role of color in his expression of natural phenomena. He took residence with his family in London where he met Paul Durand-Ruel, the Parisian dealer who would become a strong supporter of the Impressionists.
In 1874, the artist joined Monet for a project to organize independent exhibitions. During this time, he fell in love with Julie Vellay, a maid in his mother's household. They married ten years later in 1871 and had eight children.
Pissarro began to explore the effects of light, climate and the seasons, adopting new techniques that would make his art completely unique. ‘Peasant Woman with a Wheelbarrow’ (1874) demonstrates an attempt at using touches of broken color in order to light up the canvas in such a way that it transforms an ordinary setting into a soft and bright atmosphere without complete dissolution.
During his impressionist period from 1870 to 1880, his palette became brighter; color dabs resembled commas, and light vibrated. He often painted houses, factories, trees, haystacks, fields, laboring peasants, and river scenes. He took part in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. Leader of the original Impressionists, he was the only one to exhibit at all eight of the Group exhibitions in Paris from 1874 to 1886.
Between 1886 and 1890, Pissarro began to transform again, converting to Neo-Impressionism. He exhibited in Paris (1883) and New York (1886). In the latter part of his career, he sought to find a new expression by combining firm drawing with great chromatic lavishness in vigorous constructions.
Camille Pissarro had to wait until late in his life to enjoy the type of success he had always imagined for himself and his art. In his last years, he experienced eye problems which forced him to abandon outdoor painting. He continued to work in his studio until his death in Paris on November 13, 1903.