Pissarro, the "father" of the Impressionists and beyond.
Posteri aside, who was the contemporary painter who discovered Van Gogh and who immediately claimed that Vincent was a genius? Jacob Abraham Camille Pissarro.
A Frenchman in the Antilles
Camille was born on 10 July 1830 in the Antilles Islands from a Franco-Portuguese father and a Creole mother native to the island. His father had reached the islet to succeed his uncle who owned a small shop.
At the age of twelve, his father sent him to study in France near Paris. The teachers became aware of his artistic talent and Pissarro became passionate about drawing and painting. Back in the Antilles, his father brings him back to order, because he believes that taking care of the shop is the right future for his son Camille.
Until Fritz Melby, a Danish painter, arrives on the island. Fritz becomes a friend of Camille and convinces him to follow his passion for art.
Flight to Venezuela
Camille then flees to Venezuela and paints busily to pay for the trip to Europe. Faced with the evidence, the father gives in and complies with the son's desire.
Pissarro arrived in Paris in 1855 in full artistic fervor and was the site, in that year, of the "Universal Exposition". He regularly attends the School of Fine Arts and the Academié Suisse.
Camille soon became impatient with both academic studies and the self-referential system of the Salons, where only those who adapted to the academic tradition could exhibit.
Father of the Impressionists
Pissarro is in good company: Monet, Guillamin, Cézanne and other artists think like him. Pissarro has an open and jovial character, a positive attitude and Cèzanne becomes his brotherly friend to the point that he signs himself: “Cezanne, Pissarro's pupil”.
He is the only painter who exhibits his paintings in all the "Independent Exhibitions", a point of reference for all Impressionists. He is ten years older and the others turn to him for advice, to talk and always find a bright word.
So for many he is considered the "Father of Impressionism", but in reality this title, pictorially, belongs to Monet.
Curiosity and experimentation
Pissarro is not fully impressionist. While on the one hand he agrees on the mobility of light and the innovative importance of chromatic effects, on the other hand his compositions are well constructed and "thought out".
He often says: "You have to do a lot to make it familiar", rejecting the poetics of the moment and immediacy promoted by Monet and his companions.
Pissarro is an experimenter and loves to try all kinds of techniques and materials. After the propulsive thrust of the Impressionists, he was attracted by Seurat's “pointillism”.
Despite his age, he threw himself headlong into pointillist painting that started from scientific considerations: creating colors by combining them, and not mixing them on the canvas, then leaving the task of creating the final vision to the eye.
Back to ... "Camille"
This technique, however, requires an above all theoretical approach and it takes a very long time to make a "dotted" picture, the opposite of Pissarro's energetic nature and his need to enter into an immediate relationship with nature.
He writes: «The Neo-Impressionist technique was a technique that did not allow me to be faithful to my feelings and which, therefore, prevented me from representing life, movement: nor could I be faithful to the admirable and chaotic effects of nature, or perhaps confer a charisma to the my design ... I finally gave up.»
A painter at the window
Camille goes back to "her" painting. An eye disease drastically reduces his activity and forbids him to paint in "plein air", but without losing heart he organizes himself to paint at the window.
It still seems to see him from morning to evening, an old man with a long white beard, in front of the window and the easel, palette in hand, with a sharp and serene gaze.
He died in Paris on November 13, 1903.