"It is only by drawing often, drawing
everything, drawing incessantly, that one fine day you discover to your surprise that you have rendered something in its true
When we think of the Impressionists many names come to mind,
but for some unknown reason the originator of the Impressionists has been slightly tucked into the footnotes of history. That
originator is the landscape painting master, Camille Pissarro. He was born on the island of St.
Thomas, in the Virgin Islands in 1830. His parents had a dry goods store in the town of Charlotte Amalie. His family would send him to boarding school outside of Paris, France at the age of twelve. It is said that he learned
to draw from a man that ran a boarding house in Paris. He was also a pupil of Fritz Melbye, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot and studied at the Academy Suisse. By the time he reached the age of twenty-two,
he had devoted himself to art as a profession. Corot wisely advised him to be observant of nature, work from small sketches,
and to focus on tonal values in his artworks (Corot believed that technique and color only added charm to a painting). Within
eight years of that declaration, was his first acceptance into the French Salon exhibition. He would be accepted into the
show another six times over his career, but there would be a dry period. He applied every year, but for the next five years
he would apply and be rejected. The fifth year of rejection, he was invited to be a part of the 1863 Salon des Refuses. The
following year he was again accepted to the Salon.
His work in France was interrupted by the Franco-Prussian War. At that time
he had moved to London, England for about two years. He had to rebuild many things upon his homecoming. His house was ransacked
by the Persian Army and over 1400 paintings were destroyed. His earliest works were gone. He had to rebuild his collection
and his life’s work. He also wanted to reorganize with his artist friends. Pissarro, along with Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, and Pierre Auguste Renoir worked to further organize themselves by creating a society of independent artists that could continue to host exhibitions
outside the Salon. This would be the Impressionists. On April 15, 1874 the Impressionist hosted their first official group
show. Pissarro entered five landscapes in that show and would be the only artist to take part in all eight of the official
Impressionist shows from 1874 through 1886.The public and critics hated the show of 1874, but the artists were motivated to
move forward. He was the major figure form the beginning through to the end. Even when he couldn’t sell his work and
was near poverty, he would refuse to sell out to the Salon again.
Many artists, including Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin, went to Pissarro for advice and instruction. He was the wise gentleman. The father figure. He was also open-minded to learning.
In one series, dissatisfied with his work, got advice form Georges Seurat on his pointillism approach. He loved painting nature and was, despite the previous story, extremely consistent with his
approach to painting. A great example of his landscape work is Paysage à Eragny. In those landscapes he preferred to place people into the compositions. Most Impressionists don’t place people
in landscapes, but Pissarro usually did things as he saw fit.
Paysage à Eragny
1897. Oil on Canvas. Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France
What would Pissarro tell a young artist like you? "Don't
work bit by bit, but paint everything at once by placing tones everywhere, with brushstrokes of the right color and value,
while noticing what is alongside. Use small brushstrokes and try to put down your perceptions immediately... Observe, the
aerial perspective well, from foreground to the horizon, the reflections of sky, of foliage. Don't be afraid of putting on
color, refine the work little by little. Don't proceed according to rules and principles, but paint what you observe and feel…
One must have only one teacher - nature; she is the one always to be consulted." With age came respect and appreciation
for Pissarro and his ideas. In his mid-seventies he was selling his paintings and had many admirers. He was productive until
the end, dying of blood poisoning in Le Havre, France.