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  • Camille Pissarro
    Jul 10, 1830 - Nov 13, 1903
  • The Quays at Rouen - Camille Pissarro was a French Impressionist painter. His importance resides not only in his visual contributions to Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, but also in his patriarchal standing among his colleagues, particularly Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin. He was seen as the patriarch of the Impressionist movement, and was constantly encouraging younger artists and managing the artistic revolution's progress.
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The Quays at Rouen
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  • The Quays at Rouen

  • Camille Pissarro
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  • 1883
    Oil on canvas
    The Courtauld Gallery, London, United Kingdom.

    Pissarro was the only artist to take part in all eight Impressionist Exhibitions (though none of them bore the title which is now used). He fulfilled a pivotal role in the development of Impressionism and in the movements it later spawned, becoming something of a father figure and mentor to such artists as Cézanne, Gauguin and van Gogh, and enthusiastically supporting the aims of the Neo-Impressionists. In the autumn of 1883 Pissarro took a room in Murer’s Hotel in Rouen. For three months he worked on thirteen paintings of the city with the river Seine and the attendant commercial activities of the port as his principal motif. Thirteen years later he was back in the city to undertake one of the series of urban scenes which constituted much of Pissarro’s output during the last ten years of his life. These series paintings amounted to some three hundred canvases made up of views from a single vantage point, usually a hotel room high above the chosen scene. In retrospect, the canvases painted in Rouen in 1883, which can be divided into three groups of subjects, can be seen as his first attempt to create a series of cityscapes.

    In this picture, as in his later urban series, he uses a raised viewpoint partly it seems in order to distance the viewer from the panorama presented by the artist and to create the feeling that we are voyeurs, detached from the lives of those engaged in the day-to-day activities of the city — lives from which a brief moment has been captured and frozen on the canvas.

    Pissarro constructed his pictures at this time using a heavy impasto — small dabs and dots of colour are built up, dab on dab, to produce a surface which almost seethes with colour. Small flecks of lighter paint across the surface help to give the impression of occluded sunlight. Two years after his stay in Rouen, Pissarro met Seurat and Signac, after which he adopted, for a while, a pointillist style. However, this picture already exhibits aspects of a nascent pointillism and it seems that Pissarro would have needed little encouragement from them to adapt to full blown Neo-Impressionism.

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Other paintings by Camille Pissarro:

Boulevard Montmartre: Night Effect
Boulevard Montmartre: Night Effect
Mirbeau's Garden, the Terrace
Mirbeau's Garden, the Terrace
Boulevard Montmartre: Afternoon, Sunlight
Boulevard Montmartre: Afternoon, Sunlight
A Road in Louveciennes
A Road in Louveciennes
Camille PissarroBorn July 10, 1830 in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Camille Pissarro was sent to Paris to study as a boy, where he earned acclaim for his budding talent as an artist. He was obligated to return to St. Thomas in 1847 to help his father run his general store, but by 1855, he had convinced his parents to allow him to pursue his dream of becoming a painter.

Camille Pissarro returned to Paris, where the landscapes of Camille Corot and other members of the Barbizon group made a huge impression on him at the World’s Fair. The concept of working directly from nature appealed to the young artist, and he gravitated toward landscape painting. Over the next 10 years, he studied at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts and at the Académie Suisse, where classes were free.

Camille Pissarro’s education was as much about formal studies as it was about meeting like-minded contemporaries with whom Pissarro could share ideas. Among them were Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and Paul Cézanne. The artists were experimenting with new ways of painting that eschewed the traditional methods of the past. Pissarro's works were occasionally accepted at the prestigious state-run art show, the Salon. Perhaps more importantly, he won the critical support of journalist Émile Zola, who helped the artist build his career.

During the Franco-Prussian War, Camille Pissarro left France for London with his friend Claude Monet. There, they were influenced by the landscape paintings of John Constable and J.M.W. Turner in developing a unique style that would later be known as Impressionism. Upon returning to his home near Paris, Pissarro discovered that the Prussians had destroyed nearly all of his paintings.

After several rejections by the Salon, Camille Pissarro and his colleagues decided to hold their own independent exhibition of their Impressionist works. The first of these independent shows was held in 1874 and included Pissarro, Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Edgar Degas, and Berthe Morisot. Pissarro participated in all eight of the independent exhibitions from 1874-86, the only artist to do so.

Camille Pissarro was seen as the patriarch of the Impressionist movement, and was constantly encouraging younger artists and managing the artistic revolution’s progress. In 1892, he finally received the international recognition he deserved with a large-scale retrospective of his work, including Path through the Fields (1879), Landscape, Eragny (1895), and Place du Théâtre Français (1898). He died in Paris on November 12, 1903.