10 Things You Didn’t Know About Camille Pissarro

Camille Pissarro, born on July 10, 1830, was a renowned Danish-French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painter. He played a vital role in shaping the development of art in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Pissarro’s unique style and passion for capturing rural landscapes and scenes of daily life led to his impressive body of work. While many may be familiar with his contributions to the art world, there are several fascinating facts about Pissarro that often go unnoticed. In this article, we will delve into ten things you may not know about this influential artist.

1. Early Struggles

Pissarro’s journey to becoming an esteemed artist was not without its difficulties. He came from a middle-class Jewish family in St. Thomas, a Danish colony in the Caribbean. Growing up in this humble environment, Pissarro faced numerous challenges, including financial constraints and limited access to art materials. However, he overcame these obstacles and his determination to pursue his passion eventually led him to France, where he would become one of the pioneers of Impressionism.

2. Mentorship From Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

Pissarro had the privilege of receiving mentorship from renowned French landscape painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. Corot’s guidance was instrumental in Pissarro’s artistic growth and helped shape his unique style. The older artist encouraged Pissarro to paint en plein air, or outdoors, allowing him to capture the true essence of nature. This influence can be seen in Pissarro’s later works, which often featured vibrant landscapes and atmospheric effects.

3. Rejected by the Paris Salon

Pissarro’s early submissions to the Paris Salon, the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, were repeatedly rejected. This rejection did not deter him from pursuing his artistic goals, however. Instead, he embraced the opportunity to exhibit his works at the Salon des Refusés, an alternative exhibition created for artists who had been rejected by the Salon. Pissarro’s participation in the Salon des Refusés allowed him to showcase his paintings alongside other unconventional artists, attracting attention and establishing his reputation.

4. Brotherhood with Other Artists

Pissarro had deep connections with other well-known artists of the time, including Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Together, they formed a tight-knit group known as the Impressionists. Pissarro’s role as the mentor and father figure of this group showcased his commitment to nurturing and inspiring fellow artists. Their shared passion for capturing the fleeting effects of light and color in their paintings solidified their place in art history.

5. Political Activism

In addition to his artistic endeavors, Pissarro was actively involved in political movements. He firmly believed in social equality and the rights of the working class. Pissarro participated in the Paris Commune of 1871, a revolutionary socialist government that briefly controlled Paris. Although this endeavor ultimately failed, it further exemplified Pissarro’s commitment to his principles and his desire for social change.

6. Rediscovering Pastel

During the later years of his career, Pissarro began experimenting with pastel as a medium, rediscovering its expressive and vibrant qualities. His pastel works proved to be immensely successful and demonstrated his versatility as an artist. Pissarro’s adeptness in capturing the nuances of light and color using this medium is evident in his exquisite landscapes and portraits.

7. Influence on Pointillism

Pissarro’s significant contribution to the art world extends beyond Impressionism. Alongside other Neo-Impressionists such as Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, Pissarro pioneered the technique of Pointillism. This technique involved applying small dots or strokes of pure color onto the canvas, which would then blend optically to create the desired hues. Pissarro’s influence on the development of Pointillism was instrumental in pushing the boundaries of artistic expression and laying the foundation for modern art movements.

8. Latter Years in Éragny

In his later years, Pissarro settled in the rural village of Éragny-sur-Epte. The peaceful surroundings and picturesque landscapes of this region greatly inspired his work. During this period, Pissarro’s paintings often depicted scenes from everyday village life, capturing the charm and simplicity of the countryside. These works showcased his ability to find beauty in ordinary moments and highlighted his unwavering dedication to depicting the human experience.

9. Multiple Nationalities

Throughout his life, Pissarro held multiple nationalities. He was born Danish, acquired French citizenship in 1870, and later became a British citizen in 1890. These changes in nationality were primarily driven by political circumstances and the desire to secure his family’s safety during times of unrest. Despite these changes, Pissarro’s cultural background and artistic vision remained deeply rooted in his Caribbean upbringing and his love for the French countryside.

10. Legacy and Influence

Pissarro’s artistic legacy continues to resonate. His contributions to the Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist movements, as well as his role as a mentor and teacher, have had a profound impact on the art world. Pissarro’s commitment to capturing the essence of nature and his ability to infuse his works with emotion and light continue to inspire artists today. His works can be found in prestigious art galleries and museums worldwide, a testament to his enduring influence.

These ten fascinating facts shed light on the lesser-known aspects of Camille Pissarro’s life and work, unveiling the depth and complexity of this remarkable artist. Exploring his journey, influences, and contributions provides a deeper appreciation for his oeuvre and his lasting impact on the art world.

Metropolitan Museum of Art – Camille Pissarro
The Art Institute of Chicago – Camille Pissarro
National Gallery – Camille Pissarro