Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) is the doyen of the French impressionism. He was one of the longest-lived impressionist painters, along with Renoir.
Born on St Thomas Island (today US Virgin Islands), in a jew family of Belgian origin. His father married the widow of his uncle, which is why the couple have been isolated from their religious community and their children played mainly with the local kids. The father dealt with trade and preferred his son to take his way. But the young Camille felt very early his vocation and went to Paris to learn from the European painters.
His talent has been gradually developing, passing slowly through the classical realism, impressionism, pointilism and neo-impressionism. Pissarro left us a huge number of paintings in all known at that time genres – cityscapes, landscapes, still life, flower paintings, portraits and self-portraits.
Pissarro is devoted to plain-air painting. During his life in France and in England, he travelled much throughout the country and studied with his brush nature and people.
In his paintings is felt incredible reverence to the ordinary people and their work. Hardworking, concerned, tired, curious, conceived – they are the focus of his work. I think this is because he was born on a remote island, grew up with local children, and continually watched their parents working hard to survive.
It is curious that Pissarro painted relatively few portraits, but each one of them shows how much he has loved people and how well he has understood the human soul.
I especially like his portrait of Paul Cezanne.
Paul Cezanne was not a big talker. He had a difficult character, one difficult to communicate man. Today we would call him an introvert.
Look at Cezanne – he is sitting to pose reluctantly, wearing a coat and hat, ready to leave at any moment. Cezanne was an absolute negligee in life – no care for his appearance. It is felt how inaction tortures him. We don’t see his hands, but we feel his fingers moving unconsciously, inpatient to take the brush. Cezanne most probably only endured this sitting for Pissarro. Back to him on the wall there are only paintings, in one of which (with ironic love) a stocky painter with a beard holds his palette, staying like an angel right above Cezanne.
All this in one of my loveliest colour combinations – brown and blue. Marvellous picture of the great painter.
Since Pissarro was an incredibly soft and lovable man, he also has been a great friend.
You can look at his paintings at Wikiart here.