Over the last two days, I’ve shown two “quick landscape studies”, both inspired by Camille Pissarro. While the first was successful, the second … well, not so much. Both were valuable painting experiences for me, and both taught me a lot about who I am. And, I’ll say it quite simply: I am certainly not Camille Pissarro.
I’m not an “alla prima” painter. I don’t care for “plein air”. These are the methods by which Pissarro painted. He loved working out in nature, and he tended to paint the world around him exactly as he saw it — which led some critics to describe Pissarro’s works as “vulgar”. He was criticized for painting “rutted and edged hodgepodge of bushes, mounds of earth, and trees in various stages of development.”
Well, be that as it may, I like the landscapes Pissarro painted. A favorite is “A Path In the Woods” painted at Pontoise, France.
I have to say I love everything about this painting. I love seeing Pissarro’s personal style so clearly displayed, the loveliness of the autumn scene itself, the color palette, the visible brushstrokes… everything about it!
Yes, I love Pissarro’s art. Despite the criticism he sometimes received, Pissarro was a revered figure among the artists of his day. To many, he became a “father figure”, always there to guide, to advise, to direct, and to support the arts.
In 1873, Pissarro helped to establish a collective society of fifteen aspiring artists as an alternative to the Paris Salon. The Salon was the official art exhibition of the French Academy of Fine Arts (Academie des Beaux-Arts) in Paris.
The group’s first exhibition was panned by critics. Despite personal tragedy — Pissarro’s nine-year-old daughter died only a few days before the exhibition opened — he helped keep the group together, becoming the only artist to show his works in all eight “Impressionist Exhibitions” held in Paris. The criticism hurt him deeply. He wrote to critic Theodore Duret:
“Our exhibition goes well. It is a success. The critics destroy us and accuse us of not having studied; I am returning to my work, it is better than reading the reviews.”
As I browsed around and learned more about Pissarro and his approach to art, what I found most interesting were the words others used to describe him. Art historian John Rewald called him the “dean of the Impressionist painters”, not only because he was the oldest of the group, but also “by virtue of his wisdom and his balanced, kind, and warmhearted personality.
Paul Cezanne said:
“He was a father for me. A man to consult and a little like the good Lord.”
He was an inspiration to many of the artists we revere today, including Paul Gauguin, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Vincent Van Gogh. Over and over, I found artists and critics praising Pissarro for both his works and his personal warmth, his respect for others, his willingness to encourage and to help younger artists develop.
Art critic and author Emile Zola called Pissarro “one of the three or four true painters of this day.” It was said that Pissarro painted “the smell of the earth.” Oh, how I like that thought.
Even now, nearly a hundred years after his death, Jacob Abraham Camille Pissarro continues to inspire, to encourage, to advise, and to serve as a welcoming “father figure” for artists like me. His style is not my style; his methods are certainly not my methods, yet I marvel over his landscapes and aspire to follow in his footsteps. I want to traipse alongside him in the woods, visit the places he painted, and listen to him speak of the “picturesque” beauty he found in rural settings.
Today, I share with you a few of my favorite Pissarro landscapes. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Perhaps my favorite of his landscapes is one he painted not outdoors, but from the window of his home in Ergany. He had often painted scenes of his garden. This view of the poplars there was painted in 1895. An eye ailment prevented Pissarro from working en plein air, yet he was still able to create this stunning landscape.
Yes, I find Pissarro’s works inspiring, and even more, I find the man himself to be an inspiration for all artists. As Zola said, Pissarro was indeed, a true painter. He painted with his heart and soul, and the world of art is richer for it.
Thank you, Camille Pissarro, for all you have given this world.