Interpretive Resource

Artist Biography: Camille Pissarro

A concise biography about Pissarro's life and work.

National Gallery of Art. Micro Gallery—National Gallery of Art. Online Content. Washington, D.C., 2004.

Camille Pissarro
French, 1830-1903
Pissarro, primarily a landscape painter, was a driving force behind the impressionist group shows. Slightly older than the other members of the circle, he made many of the arrangements, reconciled disputes among painters, and contributed a number of canvases to all eight impressionist exhibitions.

Born in the West Indies, Pissarro worked mainly in Pontoise, a suburb of Paris. He was obliged to help run the family business during early adulthood, teaching himself to paint in his spare time. Although Pissarro's work was accepted to the Salon in 1859 and again in the later 1860s, he became embittered with the academic system. He in turn developed an impressionist style characterized by loose brushwork and a concern for reflected light.

By 1880 Pissarro began working in a new style: a thick application of paint in small crosshatched strokes. Five years later he met Paul Signac and Georges Seurat, and was impressed with their unique method. In 1886 Pissarro adopted a neo-impressionist style characterized by discrete touches of unmixed pigments that were often densely applied to form a complex web of color. However, he eventually found the meticulous technique too limiting and abandoned it in 1891.

Pissarro's political beliefs inclined toward anarchism. His paintings of peasants working in gardens or fields reflected his belief in the essential dignity of the laboring class. As anti-anarchist sentiments reached a climax in the 1890s, Pissarro went into exile in Belgium.



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