Pissarro, Warm Heart–Open Mind

By Vanessa Nesvig
Coordinator of Interpretation and Programs

After researching a work of art for our What Do You Think? discussion every month, I think that to know more about an artist is to love them more. Camille Pissarro is a case in point.

Camille Pissarro France, "The Jetty at Le Havre, High Tide, Morning Sun," 1903, oil on canvas, 22 1/2 x 25 5/8 inches. Collection of the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, Tennessee. Museum purchase.

Here are a few things that really impressed me about French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro.

• Pissarro was older than the rest of the Impressionists—Renior, Degas, Monet, Manet as well as Post-Impressionist Cezanne—and was thought of as the father figure of the group. His warm heart and youthful temperament (and early grey beard) made many of these artists consider themselves his pupils, though he never taught them. When Cezanne was 67, long after Pissarro’s death, he still listed himself as “pupil of Pissarro” in exhibition catalogues.

• In 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, Pissarro was forced to leave France because of his Danish citizenship. He decided to go to London, as many of his fellow artists did. At the age of 40, he left 1500 of his paintings behind in Paris and when he returned, only 40 of them remained because soldiers had used them for towels and rugs.

• At the age of 54, he met the two Pointalists, Paul Signac and Georges Seurat. For the next four years, he converted to their more scientific approach to art and color. Critics of the day noted, “his extraordinary capacity to change his art, revised his position and took on new challenges.” Then, he had the courage to change back to a more natural approach four years later.

This paternal figure had a great influence in keeping the Impressionists together, both intellectually and as an exhibiting group. His gentle manner kept a group of young outsider artists focused on pushing art forward.

I just have to wonder how it would be different if there were 1460 more paintings of his in the world…

Join us on Thursday, August 2 for our next What Do You Think? discussion of the work Stormy Weather, Etretat by Gustave Courbet!

(Image Credit: Camille Pissarro, The Jetty at Le Havre, High Tide, Morning Sun, 1903, oil on canvas, 22 1/2 x 25 5/8 inches. Collection of the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, Tennessee. Museum purchase.)


  1. Posted August 1, 2012 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Vanessa, I think it’s great that you’re doing this. It helps add depth to the artwork.

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