| July 10,
|Nov 13, 1903 (age 73)
Does Camille Pissarro Dead or Alive?
As per our current Database, Camille Pissarro died on Nov 13, 1903 (age 73).
When he was in his early twenties, he took up an artistic career on the suggestion of his mentor, Fritz Melbye. He first exhibited his work at the Paris Salon of 1859.
Jacob Abraham Camille Pissarro was born on 10 July 1830 on the island of St. Thomas to Frederick and Rachel Manzano de Pissarro. His father was of Portuguese Jewish descent and held French nationality. His mother was from a French-Jewish family from the island of St. Thomas. His father was a merchant who came to the island from France to deal with the hardware store of a deceased uncle, Isaac Petit, and married his widow. The marriage caused a stir within St. Thomas’ small Jewish community because she was previously married to Frederick’s uncle and according to Jewish law a man is forbidden from marrying his aunt. In subsequent years his four children attended the all-black primary school. Upon his death, his will specified that his estate be split equally between the synagogue and St. Thomas’ Protestant church.
When Pissarro turned twenty-one, Danish artist Fritz Melbye, then living on St. Thomas, inspired him to take on painting as a full-time profession, becoming his teacher and friend. Pissarro then chose to leave his family and job and live in Venezuela, where he and Melbye spent the next two years working as artists in Caracas and La Guaira. He drew everything he could, including landscapes, village scenes, and numerous sketches, enough to fill up multiple sketchbooks. In 1855 he moved back to Paris where he began working as assistant to Anton Melbye, Fritz Melbye’s brother.
In 1859 his first painting was accepted and exhibited. His other paintings during that period were influenced by Camille Corot, who tutored him. He and Corot both shared a love of rural scenes painted from nature. It was by Corot that Pissarro was inspired to paint outdoors, also called “plein air” painting. Pissarro found Corot, along with the work of Gustave Courbet, to be “statements of pictorial truth,” writes Rewald. He discussed their work often. Jean-François Millet was another whose work he admired, especially his “sentimental renditions of rural life”.
In 1859, while attending the free school, the Académie Suisse, Pissarro became friends with a number of younger artists who likewise chose to paint in the more realistic style. Among them were Claude Monet, Armand Guillaumin and Paul Cézanne. What they shared in common was their dissatisfaction with the dictates of the Salon. Cézanne’s work had been mocked at the time by the others in the school, and, writes Rewald, in his later years Cézanne “never forgot the sympathy and understanding with which Pissarro encouraged him.” As a part of the group, Pissarro was comforted from knowing he was not alone, and that others similarly struggled with their art.
Pissarro agreed with the group about the importance of portraying individuals in natural settings, and expressed his dislike of any artifice or grandeur in his works, despite what the Salon demanded for its exhibits. In 1863 almost all of the group’s paintings were rejected by the Salon, and French Emperor Napoleon III instead decided to place their paintings in a separate exhibit hall, the Salon des Refusés. However, only works of Pissarro and Cézanne were included, and the separate exhibit brought a hostile response from both the officials of the Salon and the public.
In 1871 in Croydon he married his mother’s maid, Julie Vellay, a vineyard grower’s daughter, with whom he would later have seven children. They lived outside Paris in Pontoise and later in Louveciennes, both of which places inspired many of his paintings including scenes of village life, along with rivers, woods, and people at work. He also kept in touch with the other artists of his earlier group, especially Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, and Frédéric Bazille.
According to Pissarro’s son, Lucien, his father painted regularly with Cézanne beginning in 1872. He recalls that Cézanne walked a few miles to join Pissarro at various settings in Pontoise. While they shared ideas during their work, the younger Cézanne wanted to study the countryside through Pissarro’s eyes, as he admired Pissarro’s landscapes from the 1860s. Cézanne, although only nine years younger than Pissarro, said that “he was a father for me. A man to consult and a little like the good Lord.”
To assist in that endeavour, in 1873 he helped establish a separate collective, called the “Société Anonyme des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteurs et Graveurs,” which included fifteen artists. Pissarro created the group’s first charter and became the “pivotal” figure in establishing and holding the group together. One writer noted that with his prematurely grey beard, the forty-three-year-old Pissarro was regarded as a “wise elder and father figure” by the group. Yet he was able to work alongside the other artists on equal terms due to his youthful temperament and creativity. Another writer said of him that “he has unchanging spiritual youth and the look of an ancestor who remained a young man”.
The following year, in 1874, the group held their first ‘Impressionist’ Exhibition, which shocked and “horrified” the critics, who primarily appreciated only scenes portraying religious, historical, or mythological settings. They found fault with the Impressionist paintings on many grounds:
It was Pissarro’s intention during this period to help “educate the public” by painting people at work or at home in realistic settings, without idealising their lives. Pierre-Auguste Renoir, in 1882, referred to Pissarro’s work during this period as “revolutionary,” in his attempt to portray the “common man.” Pissarro himself did not use his art to overtly preach any kind of political message, however, although his preference for painting humble subjects was intended to be seen and purchased by his upper class clientele. He also began painting with a more unified brushwork along with pure strokes of color.
In 1884, art dealer Theo van Gogh asked Pissarro if he would take in his older brother, Vincent, as a boarder in his home. Lucien Pissarro wrote that his father was impressed by Van Gogh’s work and had “foreseen the power of this artist”, who was 23 years younger. Although Van Gogh never boarded with him, Pissarro did explain to him the various ways of finding and expressing light and color, ideas which he later used in his paintings, notes Lucien.
In 1885 he met Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, both of whom relied on a more “scientific” theory of painting by using very small patches of pure colours to create the illusion of blended colours and shading when viewed from a distance. Pissarro then spent the years from 1885 to 1888 practising this more time-consuming and laborious technique, referred to as pointillism. The paintings that resulted were distinctly different from his Impressionist works, and were on display in the 1886 Impressionist Exhibition, but under a separate section, along with works by Seurat, Signac, and his son Lucien.
Returning to France, Pissarro lived in Pontoise from 1872 to 1884. In 1890 he again visited England and painted some ten scenes of central London. He came back again in 1892, painting in Kew Gardens and Kew Green, and also in 1897, when he produced several oils described as being of Bedford Park, Chiswick, but in fact all being of the nearby Stamford Brook area except for one of Bath Road, which runs from Stamford Brook along the south edge of Bedford Park.
Lucien Pissarro was taught painting by his father, and described him as a “splendid teacher, never imposing his personality on his pupil.” Gauguin, who also studied under him, referred to Pissarro “as a force with which future artists would have to reckon”. Art historian Diane Kelder notes that it was Pissarro who introduced Gauguin, who was then a young stockbroker studying to become an artist, to Degas and Cézanne. Gauguin, near the end of his career, wrote a letter to a friend in 1902, shortly before Pissarro’s death:
Pissarro died in Paris on 13 November 1903 and was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery.
In later years, Cézanne also recalled this period and referred to Pissarro as “the first Impressionist”. In 1906, a few years after Pissarro’s death, Cézanne, then 67 and a role model for the new generation of artists, paid Pissarro a debt of gratitude by having himself listed in an exhibition catalogue as “Paul Cézanne, pupil of Pissarro”.
Through the paintings Pissarro completed at this time, he records Sydenham and the Norwoods at a time when they were just recently connected by railways, but prior to the expansion of suburbia. One of the largest of these paintings is a view of St. Bartholomew’s Church at Lawrie Park Avenue, commonly known as The Avenue, Sydenham, in the collection of the National Gallery in London. Twelve oil paintings date from his stay in Upper Norwood and are listed and illustrated in the catalogue raisonné prepared jointly by his fifth child Ludovic-Rodolphe Pissarro and Lionello Venturi and published in 1939. These paintings include Norwood Under the Snow, and Lordship Lane Station, views of The Crystal Palace relocated from Hyde Park, Dulwich College, Sydenham Hill, All Saints Church Upper Norwood, and a lost painting of St. Stephen’s Church.
In June 2006 publishers Skira/Wildenstein released Pissarro: Critical Catalogue of Paintings, compiled by Joachim Pissarro (descendant of the painter) and Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts (descendant of the French art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel). The 1,500-page, three-volume work is the most comprehensive collection of Pissarro paintings to date, and contains accompanying images of drawings and studies, as well as photographs of Pissarro and his family that had not previously been published. ISBN 88-7624-525-1
During his lifetime, Camille Pissarro sold few of his paintings. By the 21st century, however, his paintings were selling for millions. An auction record for the artist was set on 6 November 2007 at Christie’s in New York, where a group of four paintings, Les Quatre Saisons (the Four Seasons), sold for $14,601,000 (estimate $12,000,000 – $18,000,000). In November 2009 Le Pont Boieldieu et la Gare d’Orléans, Rouen, Soleil sold for $7,026,500 at Sotheby’s in New York. In February 2014 the 1897 Le Boulevard de Montmartre, Matinée de Printemps, originally owned by the German industrialist and Holocaust victim Max Silberberg (de), sold at Sotheby’s in London for £19.9M, nearly five times the previous record.
One such lost piece, Pissarro’s 1897 oil painting, Rue St. Honoré, Apres Midi, Effet de Pluie, was discovered hanging at Madrid’s government-owned museum, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. In January 2011 the Spanish government denied a request by the US ambassador to return the painting. At the subsequent trial in Los Angeles, the court ruled that the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation was the rightful owner. Pissarro’s Le Quai Malaquais, Printemps is said to have been similarly stolen, while in 1999, Pissarro’s 1897 Le Boulevard de Montmartre, Matinée de Printemps appeared in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, its donor having been unaware of its pre-war provenance. In January 2012, Le Marché aux Poissons (The Fish Market), a color monotype, was returned after 30 years.
Currently, Camille Pissarro is 192 years, 4 months and 22 days old. Camille Pissarro will celebrate 193rd birthday on a Monday 10th of July 2023.
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