Monday, May 16, 2011

Pissarro: The Impressionists' Father Figure

In early Modern Art, Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) was one of the most influential Impressionists. Nowadays, his contributions to art and artist seem to be overshadowed by other Impressionists such as Monet and Degas - that would be unfortunate. It was his experiences and personality that held the Impressionists together.

For one thing, his experience of the world was different from these French painters. He was not a native Frenchman. He was born in St. Thomas (now part of the Virgin Islands.) His father was a Portuguese Jew and his mother was Creole.

There was a great intolerance for the mixed marriage and the siblings were sent to all-black primary school. At age 12, Pissarro's father sent him to France to study art.

Perhaps it was the segregation on the island that made Pissarro show "sympathy and understanding" as Cezanne described him. When the Salon des Beaux Artes refused the paintings of the Impressionists, it was Pissarro with his strong sense of fairness who created the first charter for the artists' group. (It was this group that formed the "Salon des Refuses")

Pissarro's personality held the disparate group of artists together. (It certainly helped that he was a gray beard by age 43.) The other artists including Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cezanne, and Degas, considered him a kind and patient father figure.

Yet, it wasn't only his demeanor. It was also his extensive contributions to the techniques of Impressionism. In the history of art, Pissarro is referred to as "the Father of Impressionism." (In recognition of Pissarro after his death, Paul Cezanne referred to himself as "Paul Cezanne, pupil of Pissarro." )

His kindness, fairness and tolerance as a father and teacher would extend even to his own children. As a matter of fact, more than 150 years after his death there are famous artists and curators in his direct lineage who proudly carry the name "Pissarro."

Father, indeed.


  1. An impressive man and a great painter. Jen

  2. What beautiful paintings. sz

  3. Thank you R for this knowledge..........I am learning about these incredible people.

  4. I really like his work!! FB