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Camille Pissarro was a French landscape artist best known for his influence on Impressionist and Postimpressionist painting.
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Camille Pissarro was born on July 10, 1830, on the island of St. Thomas. Relocating to Paris as a young man, Pissarro began experimenting with art, eventually helping to shape the Impressionist movement with friends including Claude Monet and Edgar Degas. Pissarro was also active in Postimpressionist circles, continuing to paint until his death in Paris on November 13, 1903.
"It is absurd to look for perfection."
Jacob-Abraham-Camille Pissarro was born on July 10, 1830, on St. Thomas, in the Danish West Indies. His father was a French citizen of Portuguese Jewish descent, and his mother, who had previously been married to her new husband’s uncle, was Creole. The marriage was controversial, probably due to racial factors, and as a consequence the Pissarro children were compelled to attend the all-black local school rather than the Jewish school.
At the age of 12, Pissarro left St. Thomas to attend boarding school in France. There, he developed an early appreciation of the French art masters. Although he initially pursued a career in business, Pissarro never stopped drawing and painting in his spare time.
In 1852 Pissarro moved to Venezuela with Danish artist Fritz Melbye and lived there until 1855, when he returned to Paris. In Paris, he worked closely with Camille Corot and Gustave Courbet, honing his skills and experimenting with new approaches to art. Pissarro eventually fell in with a group of young artists, including Claude Monet and Paul Cézanne, who shared his interests and questions. The work of these artists was not accepted by the French artistic establishment, which excluded non-traditional painting from the official Salon exhibitions.
In 1871, Pissarro married Julie Vellay, with whom he would have seven children. They lived outside of Paris, where Pissarro painted scenes of village life and the natural world. Like many of his contemporaries, he preferred to work in the open air rather than the studio. The family moved to England during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71. Returning to his home in France at the end of the war, Pissarro discovered that the majority of his existing body of work had been destroyed.
Pissarro rebounded quickly from this setback. He soon reconnected with his artist friends, including Cézanne, Monet, Manet, Renoir and Degas. In 1873, Pissarro established a collective of 15 artists with the goal of offering an alternative to the Salon. The following year, the group held their first exhibition, dominated by a style that became known as Impressionism. The unconventional content and style represented in the show shocked critics and helped to define Impressionism as an artistic movement.
By the 1880s, Pissarro moved into a Postimpressionist period, returning to some of his earlier themes and exploring new techniques such as pointillism. He forged new friendships with artists including Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, and was an early admirer of Vincent van Gogh. While in keeping with his lifelong interest in innovation, Pissarro’s turning away from Impressionism contributed to the general decline of the movement, which he had influenced greatly.
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Derived from Claude Monet's piece entitled Impression, the term "impressionism" was created to describe the work of a select group of Parisian painters in the late 19th century. With their thin brush strokes and explosion of color and lighting on mundane subjects, impressionists painters like Monet, Mary Cassatt, and Alfred Sisley confounded critics, defied conventions, and sparked scandal. A century and a half later, they are among the most revered and influentional artists of all time.
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