Camille Pissarro

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The ‘dean’ of the impressionist painters, Camille Pissarro was a French artist who played a pivotal role in the impressionist and postimpressionist painting era.  The painter and print maker extraordinaire is the only artist to showcase his work in all eight impressionist group exhibitions. A mentor to many of great artists that got a chance to spend time with him, Pissarro was also affectionately called ‘Father Pissarro’ due to his kind nature and willingness to mentor young artists including Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Georges Seurat. Pissarro experimented with many different styles and settled on working heavily with thick oil paints. Pissarro had the unique ability to work masterfully in both dull and bright color settings; he knew exactly how to mould the colors to perfection for his paintings.

Jacob Abraham Camille Pissarro was born in 1830 on the island of St Thomas, West Indies into a Jewish household. Due to Pissarro’s mother’s different religious background, the family wasn’t readily accepted into the small Jewish community present on the island. The family moved to France where Pissarro started growing a deep admiration for art. Pissarro developed a keen interest in the environment from a young age, including the urban setting and the rural countryside which he often used to visit outside of Paris. His love for both is amply reflected in his paintings. The rural countryside also provided Pissarro with an insight into the world of the poor working class, most of Pissarro’s paintings reflected his concern on where society was headed and the treatment of the poor. In the Delafolle Brickyard at Eragny Pissarro has used the perfect blend of colors to show a beautiful countryside. Yet it is only looking closely at the painting that the viewer would notice the hidden messages in Pissarro’s painting. Despite the rich tones of the colors used on the grass, flowers and well there is a farmhouse in the painting as well. The farmhouse is painted in bleak dark tones of brown, and it is dilapidated to a large extent – one would sense that it is almost abandoned in a sense. With Pissarro there was always a lot more to the painting that would meet the eye. An ironic thing with Pissarro’s paintings is that they are all perfect yet he was staunchly against art being labored into perfection.

For Pissarro that art was beautiful which was imperfect, perfection was ‘dull’ for him. This same teaching Pissarro took to young aspiring artists who approached him for their work, he was against the dictates of society for younger artists who always found it difficult to get their work noticed. Pissarro’s Two Women Chatting by the Sea is considered somewhat autobiographical. The painting is set on a beachside which looks very familiar to where Pissarro grew up in St Thomas and features local women chatting and carrying baskets of food. Pissarro has managed to capture not only the mood of the weather perfectly but the light as well. One woman is holding an umbrella whilst the other seems to be fanning herself, good depictions showing the viewer the tropical season of the islands. Pissarro has been credited for bridging the gap between the 19th and 20th century art, his humble nature and legacy only add to his appeal as an artist who very steadily and powerfully managed to change the face of art.

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