Camille Pissarro - Old Chelsea Bridge 1871 London Postcard
Description English: Le Vieux Pont de Chelsea, Londres (Old Chelsea Bridge, London), oil on canvas painting by Camille Pissarro, 1871, Smith College Museum of Arts Date 1871. 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. Jacob-Abraham-Camille Pissarro was born at Charlotte Amalie (St. Thomas), Virgin Islands, to Abraham Gabriel Pissarro, a Portuguese Sephardic Jew, and Rachel Manzano-Pomié, from the Dominican Republic. Pissarro lived in St. Thomas until age 12, when he went to a boarding school in Paris. He returned to St. Thomas, where he drew in his free time. Pissarro was attracted to anarchism, an attraction that may have originated during his years in St. Thomas. In 1852, he traveled to Venezuela with the Danish artist Fritz Melbye. In 1855, Pissarro left for Paris, where he studied at various academic institutions (including the École des Beaux-Arts and Académie Suisse) and under a succession of masters such as Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, and Charles-François Daubigny. Corot is sometimes considered Pissarro's most important early influence; Pissarro listed himself as Corot’s pupil in the catalogues to the 1864 and 1865 Paris Salons. His finest early works (See Jalais Hill, Pontoise, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) are characterized by a broadly painted (sometimes with palette knife) naturalism derived from Courbet, but with an incipient Impressionist palette. Pissarro married Julie Vellay, a maid in his mother's household. Of their eight children, one died at birth and one daughter died aged nine. The surviving children all painted, and Lucien, the oldest son, became a follower of William Morris. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71 compelled Pissarro to flee his home in Louveciennes in September 1870; he returned in June 1871 to find that the house, and along with it many of his early paintings, had been destroyed by Prussian soldiers. Initially his family was taken in by a fellow artist in Montfoucault, but by December 1870 they had taken refuge in London and settled at Westow Hill in Upper Norwood (today better known as Crystal Palace). A Blue Plaque now marks the site of the house on the building at 77a Westow Hill. Through the paintings Pissarro completed at this time, he records Sydenham and the Norwoods at a time when they were just recently connected by railways, but prior to the expansion of suburbia. One of the largest of these paintings is a view of St. Bartholomew's Church at Lawrie Park Avenue, commonly known as The Avenue, Sydenham, in the collection of the London National Gallery. Twelve oil paintings date from his stay in Upper Norwood and are listed and illustrated in the catalogue raisonné prepared jointly by his fifth child Ludovic-Rodolphe Pissarro and Lionello Venturi and published in 1939. These paintings include Norwood Under the Snow, and Lordship Lane Station, views of The Crystal Palace relocated from Hyde Park, Dulwich College, Sydenham Hill, All Saints Church, and a lost painting of St. Stephen's Church. Whilst in Upper Norwood Pissarro was introduced to the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, who bought two of his 'London' paintings. Durand-Ruel subsequently became the most important art dealer of the new school of French Impressionism. Returning to France, in 1890 Pissarro again visited England and painted some ten scenes of central London. He came back again in 1892, painting in Kew Gardens and Kew Green, and also in 1897, when he produced several oils of Bedford Park, Chiswick. For more details of his British visits, see Nicholas Reed, "Camille Pissarro at Crystal Palace" and "Pissarro in West London", published by Lilburne Press. Pissarro painted rural and urban French life, particularly landscapes in and around Pontoise, as well as scenes from Montmartre. His mature work displays an empathy for peasants and laborers, and sometimes evidences his radical political leanings. He was a mentor to Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin and his example inspired many younger artists, including Californian Impressionist Lucy Bacon. Pissarro's influence on his fellow Impressionists is probably still underestimated; not only did he offer substantial contributions to Impressionist theory, but he also managed to remain on friendly, mutually respectful terms with such difficult personalities as Edgar Degas, Cézanne and Gauguin. Pissarro exhibited at all eight of the Impressionist exhibitions. Moreover, whereas Monet was the most prolific and emblematic practitioner of the Impressionist style, Pissarro was nonetheless a primary developer of Impressionist technique. Pissarro experimented with Neo-Impressionist ideas between 1885 and 1890. Discontented with what he referred to as "romantic Impressionism," he investigated Pointillism which he called "scientific Impressionism" before returning to a purer Impressionism in the last decade of his life. In March 1893, in Paris, Gallery Durand-Ruel organized a major exhibition of 46 of Pissarro's works along with 55 others by Antonio de La Gandara. But while the critics acclaimed Gandara, their appraisal of Pissarro's art was less enthusiastic. Pissarro died in Paris on 13 November 1903 and was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery. During his lifetime, Camille Pissarro sold few of his paintings. By 2005, however, some of his works were selling in the range of U.S. $2 to 4 million. Descendants and family Camille's great-grandson, Joachim Pissarro, is former Head Curator of Drawing and Painting at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and is now a professor in Hunter College's Art Department. His great-granddaughter, Lélia, is a painter and resides in London. From the only daughter of Camille, Jeanne Pissarro, other painters include Henri Bonin-Pissarro also known as BOPI (1918–2003) and Claude Bonin-Pissarro (born 1921), who is the father of Abstract artist Frédéric Bonin-Pissarro (born 1964). IMPRESSIONISM Impressionism was a 19th-century art movement that began as a loose association of Paris-based artists whose independent exhibitions brought them to prominence in the 1870s and 1880s. The name of the movement is derived from the title of a Claude Monet work, Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant), which provoked the critic Louis Leroy to coin the term in a satiric review published in Le Charivari. Characteristics of Impressionist paintings include visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, the inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles. The emergence of Impressionism in the visual arts was soon followed by analogous movements in other media which became known as Impressionist music and Impressionist literature. Impressionism also describes art created in this style, but outside of the late 19th century time period. Radicals in their time, early Impressionists broke the rules of academic painting. They began by giving colours, freely brushed, primacy over line, drawing inspiration from the work of painters such as Eugène Delacroix. They also took the act of painting out of the studio and into the modern world. Previously, still lifes and portraits as well as landscapes had usually been painted indoors. The Impressionists found that they could capture the momentary and transient effects of sunlight by painting en plein air. Painting realistic scenes of modern life, they emphasized vivid overall effects rather than details. They used short, "broken" brush strokes of pure and unmixed colour, not smoothly blended, as was customary, in order to achieve the effect of intense colour vibration. Although the rise of Impressionism in France happened at a time when a number of other painters, including the Italian artists known as the Macchiaioli, and Winslow Homer in the United States, were also exploring plein-air painting, the Impressionists developed new techniques that were specific to the movement. Encompassing what its adherents argued was a different way of seeing, it was an art of immediacy and movement, of candid poses and compositions, of the play of light expressed in a bright and varied use of colour. The public, at first hostile, gradually came to believe that the Impressionists had captured a fresh and original vision, even if it did not receive the approval of the art critics and establishment. By re-creating the sensation in the eye that views the subject, rather than recreating the subject, and by creating a welter of techniques and forms, Impressionism became a precursor seminal to various movements in painting which would follow, including Neo-Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, and Cubism. PAINTING Painting is a mode of expression and the forms are numerous. Drawing, composition or abstraction and other aesthetics may serve to manifest the expressive and conceptual intention of the practitioner. Paintings can be naturalistic and representational (as in a still life or landscape painting), photographic, abstract, be loaded with narrative content, symbolism, emotion or be political in nature. Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface (support base). In art, the term describes both the act and the result, which is called a painting. Paintings may have for their support such surfaces as walls, paper, canvas, wood, glass, lacquer, clay or concrete. Paintings may be decorated with gold leaf, and some modern paintings incorporate other materials including sand, clay, and scraps of paper. A portion of the history of painting in both Eastern and Western art is dominated by spiritual motifs and ideas; examples of this kind of painting range from artwork depicting mythological figures on pottery to Biblical scenes rendered on the interior walls and ceiling of The Sistine Chapel, to scenes from the life of Buddha or other scenes of eastern religious origin. Among the continuing and current directions in painting at the beginning of the 21st century are Monochrome painting, Hard-edge painting, Geometric abstraction, Appropriation, Hyperrealism, Photorealism, Expressionism, Minimalism, Lyrical Abstraction, Pop Art, Op Art, Abstract Expressionism, Color Field painting, Neo-expressionism, Collage, Intermedia painting, Assemblage painting, Computer art painting, Postmodern painting, Neo-Dada painting, Shaped canvas painting, environmental mural painting, traditional figure painting, Landscape painting, Portrait painting, and paint-on-glass animation. Developments in Eastern painting historically parallel those in Western painting, in general, a few centuries earlier. African art, Islamic art, Indian art, Chinese art, and Japanese art each had significant influence on Western art, and, eventually, vice-versa. The oldest known paintings are at the Grotte Chauvet in France, claimed by some historians to be about 32,000 years old. They are engraved and painted using red ochre and black pigment and show horses, rhinoceros, lions, buffalo, mammoth or humans often hunting. However the earliest evidence of painting has been discovered in two rock-shelters in Arnhem Land, in northern Australia. In the lowest layer of material at these sites there are used pieces of ochre estimated to be 60,000 years old. Archaeologists have also found a fragment of rock painting preserved in a limestone rock-shelter in the Kimberley region of North-Western Australia, that is dated 40 000 years old. There are examples of cave paintings all over the world—in France, Spain, Portugal, China, Australia, India etc. In Western cultures oil painting and watercolor painting are the best known media, with rich and complex traditions in style and subject matter. In the East, ink and color ink historically predominated the choice of media with equally rich and complex traditions. Different types of paint are usually identified by the medium that the pigment is suspended or embedded in, which determines the general working characteristics of the paint, such as viscosity, miscibility, solubility, drying time, etc.