Camille Pissarro's Biography


Camille Pissarro was born in the West Indies, but attended school in Paris where he became interested in drawing. At age seventeen he returned to Saint Thomas in order to enter the family business, but five years later he rebelled and ran off to Venezuela. Finally, when he was twenty-five, his family consented to his chosen career and he settled in Paris to study art. At first he was guided by Corot and was also influenced by Millet and Courbet. In 1859 he met Monet, and two years later Cezanne and Guillaumin. The year 1870-71 found him in England, avoiding the Franco-Prussian War. Unfortunately, he left behind many of his works which were subsequently destroyed by the Prussians. Upon returning to France, he continued to work and develop his art.

Throughout his life Pissarro, was plagued by financial hardships which were exacerbated by his family responsibilities. Of his seven children the oldest was the painter and printer Lucien Pissarro, who was born in Paris in 1863 and died in London in 1944. The correspondence between Lucien and his father, which is extant, reveals much about Camille's warmth, integrity and attitudes towards art.

In 1866 Pissarro met Manet, and in the following years he became involved in the Impressionist movement. He was one of few artists to participate in all eight of their revolutionary exhibitions, and he saw the group's fight against academic art as a moral as well as an aesthetic battle. His relationships wiith some of the other Impressionists and Post-Impressionists were very close and long-lasting. He worked side by side with Cezanne and was responsible for Gauguin's inclusion in the fifth Impressionist exhibition. Pissarro, Degas and Cassat exchanged technical advice about printmaking. From 1885 to 1890 Pissarro followed Seurat and Signac in experimenting with pointillism, but feeling that its scientific approach hampered his spontaneity, he later returned to Impressionism. Despite a life of privations, Pissarro refused to seek recognition in official art circles; he was completely committed to the new, more natural style of painting.

Camille Pissarro was the Impressionist printmaker "par excellence". Through a creative use of technique and imagery, he recorded his perceptions of his environment with clarity and honesty. As a result his prints are among the most rewarding to come out ot the 19th century and they distinctively represent the art of his time.