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  • Russ Ramsey

Getting to Know Camille Pissarro

For this Art Wednesday we’ll look at works from Camille Pissarro. Pissarro (1830-1903) was one of the original impressionists. He studied alongside Georges Seurat and Gustave Courbet.

Pissarro, Self-portrait, 1903


Pissarro was an early adopter of “plein air” painting—outdoor painting made popular by the invention of the tin tube. He saw works by other plein air painters as “statements of pictorial truth.”

Pissarro, The Boulevard Montmartre on a Winter Morning, 1897


Explaining his approach, Pissarro told a student, “Work at the same time upon sky, water, branches, ground, keeping everything going… rework until you have got it. Paint generously and unhesitatingly.”

Pissarro, Entry to the Village of Voisins, 1872


Art historian John Rewald described Pissarro as the “dean of the Impressionist painters by virtue of his wisdom and his balanced, kind, and warmhearted personality.” Paul Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh, Georges Seurat, and Paul Cezanne all revered him.

Pissarro, Place du Havre, 1893


Pissarro focused much of his work trying to capture nature as he saw it, without artifice or grandeur, except for what was already present. He worked to capture the way light fell and colored what he saw.

Pissarro, Pontoise, 1877


Pissarro married his mother’s maid, a young woman named Julie Vellay, who was the daughter of a vineyard grower. Together they had seven children and lived in Pontoise, outside Paris.

Pissarro, The Garden of Pontoise, 1877


Early in Pissarro’s career, the Paris Salon was the main place to show and sell art. He and Paul Cezanne, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Auguste Renoir, and Edgar Degas sought to create a new forum to showcase their new style—impressionism.

Pissarro, The Road to Versailles, Morning Frost, 1871


An eye disease prevented Pissarro from painting outdoors except for when the weather was warm, so he took to painting from hotel windows, giving him a unique vantage point and broader view that became something of a signature style for him.

Pissarro, The Boulevard Montmarte at Night, 1898


I hoped you’ve enjoyed Camille Pissarro’s work. He is one of the artists I discovered by paying attention to other artists. Artists will introduce you to their friends, if you stay curious.

Pissarro, The Woods at Marly, 1871)

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