Camille Pissarro

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Camille Pissarro, c. 1900
L'Hermitage à Pontoise, 1867
Châtaigniers à Louveciennes, c. 1870
Les châtaigniers à Osny, 1873

Camille Pissarro (10 July 183013 November 1903) was a Danish-French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist landscape-painter with important contributions to both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.

Quotes of Camille Pissarro[edit]

Jardin Mirbeau aux Damps, 1891
Place du Havre, Paris, 1893
Self portrait, 1898
Le Pont-Neuf, 1902

1870s[edit]

  • Lighten your palette [his remark to Cézanne, circa 1873] to encourage him to use bright colors], paint only with the three primary colours and their derivatives.
    • As quoted in Cezanne his Life and Art, Jack Linssey, – Evelyn, Adams and Mackay, London, 1969, p. 154-55


  • Renoir is a great success on the Salon; I think he is 'launched'. All the better! It's a very hard life, being poor.
    • In a letter to Mr. Murer, 27th May 1879, as quoted in Renoir – his life and work Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates /Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975, p. 129


  • What I have suffered you cannot imagine. But what I'm going through [circa 1878] now is even worse, much more so than when I was young.. ..because now I feel as if I have no future. Even so, if I had to do it again, I still think I wouldn't hesitate.
    • As quoted in Pissarro, His Life and Work, Shikes and Harper, Horizon Press, 1980, p. 142


1880s[edit]

  • I am much disturbed by my unpolished and rough execution; I should like to develop a smoother technique.. ..I will calmly tread the path I have taken, and try to do my best. At bottom, I have only a vague sense of its rightness or wrongness. [1883, after seeing his own painting show at Durand-Ruel 's gallery in Paris]
    • Quote, (1883); as quoted in Painting Outside the lines, Patterns of Creativity in Modern Art, ed. David W. Galenson, Harvard University Press, 30 Jun 2009, p. 84


    • I have just concluded my series of paintings [after spending several months in Rouen, 1883]. I look at them constantly. I who made them often find them horrible. I understand them only at rare moments.. .Sometimes I am horribly afraid to turn round canvases which I have piled against the wall; I am constantly afraid of finding monsters where I believed there were precious gems.
    • Quote, (1883); as quoted in Painting Outside the lines, Patterns of Creativity in Modern Art, ed. David W. Galenson, Harvard University Press, 30 Jun 2009, p. 84


  • I can quite understand the effort he is making; it is a very good thing not to want to go on repeating oneself. But he has concentrated all his attention on line; the figures stand out against each other without any sort of relationship, and so the whole thing is meaningless. Renoir is no draughtsman, and without the lovely colours he used to use so instinctively, he is incoherent.
    • In a letter to his son w:Lucien Pissarro, 14th May 1887, as quoted in Renoir – his life and work, Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates /Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975, p. 188
    • Pissarro's critical note on Renoir's painting art.


  • I have had a long talk with Renoir. He admitted that the whole crowd – Durand and his former admirers – were shouting at him, deploring his attempt to abandon his 'Romantic' period. He seems very sensitive to what we think of his exhibition. I told him that as far as we were concerned, the search for unity should be the aim of every intelligent artist. – that even in spite of serious faults, it was more intelligent and artistic than wallowing in romanticism.
    • In a letter to his son Lucien, 14th May 1887, as quoted in Renoir – his life and work, Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates /Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975, p. 189


1890s[edit]

  • Here I have been able to make some good spring studies in oils, and managed to finish my 'Cow-girl' and my 'seared Woman', and my 'London Park', Primrose Hill. I think these pictures have improved a great deal from the point of view of unity. How different from the studies! I am more than ever in favour of taking one's impression from memory; it is less the actual thing - vulgarity disappears, leaving only an aura of truth glimpsed, sensed. To think that this is not understood, so that my anxiety for the future continues as before, despite the success of the exhibition. – I have no news from Paris about my collectors.
    • In a letter to his son Lucien, 26 April 1892, as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock - , Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, p. 144


  • I began to understand my sensations, to know what I wanted, at around the age of forty.. ..but only vaguely. At fifty, that is in 1880, I formulated the idea of unity, without being able to render it. At sixty, I am beginning to see the possibility of rendering it.
    • (c. 1890); as quoted in Painting Outside the lines, Patterns of Creativity in Modern Art, David W. Galenson, Harvard University Press, 30 Jun 2009, p. 84


  • One can do such lovely things with so little. Subjects that are too beautiful end by appearing theatrical – take Switzerland, for example. Think of all the beautiful little things Corot did at Gisors; two willows, a little water, a bridge, like the picture in the Universal Exhibition. What a masterpiece!.. .Everything is beautiful, all that matters is to be able to interpret.
    • In a letter to his son Lucien, 26 July 1892, as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock - , Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, p. 146
    • Quote of Pissarro, referring to a willow-painting of his former art-teacher Camille Corot


  • The weather today is frightful, rain and wind. You must be having the same at Epping; it's a pity. It had been so fine for the last few days and I had begun to grind away from nature. This is infuriating, for it's the loveliest time of the year, September and October. I can't stand the summer any more, with its heavy, monotonous green, its dry distances where everything can be seen, the torment of the great heat... Artistic sensations revive in September and October, but then it rains and blows!
    • In a letter to his son Lucien, 15 September 1893, as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock - , Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, p. 148


  • It is only by drawing often, drawing everything, drawing incessantly, that one fine day you discover to your surprise that you have rendered something in its true character.. .So much the better if it is painful for you to take even the first step, the more toilsome the work, the stronger you will emerge from it.. .I repeat, guard against facility.
    • In a letter to his son Lucien (1894); as quoted in Painting Outside the lines, Patterns of Creativity in Modern Art, David W. Galenson, Harvard University Press, 30 Jun 2009, p. 84


  • Work at the same time upon water, sky, branches, ground, keeping everything going on an equal basis and unceasingly rework until you have got it. Paint generously and unhesitatingly, for it is best not to lose the first impression.
    • Pissarro (1896), as quoted in: Paul Cézanne, ‎Terence Maloon, ‎Angela Gundert (1998) Classic Cézanne, p. 45


  • Don't be afraid of putting on color, refine the work little by little. Don't proceed according to rules and principles, but paint what you observe and feel.. .One must have only one master – nature; she is the one always be consulted.
  • advice to a young painter, (1896); as quoted in Painting Outside the lines, Patterns of Creativity in Modern Art, ed. David W. Galenson, Harvard University Press, 30 Jun 2009, pp. 84-85, note 40


20th century[edit]

  • Decidedly, we are at cross-purposes. What's all this you tell [from England] about the modern movement, commercialism, etc, etc? It bears no relation to our concept of art, at any rate here.. .That is where the error lies. Trade serves those up to us as readily as anything else; so it is no use. Wouldn't it be better to steep ourselves in genuine nature again? I do not consider in the least that we are making a mistake, that we should turn to the steam-engine and follow the general public [ w:William Morris became very popular those days].. .No, a thousand times no! We are here to point the way.. ..the remedy is to be found in nature, more than ever. Let us follow what we consider to be the proper aim, we shall see who is right. After all, money is a fragile thing; let us earn some of it, since we must, but let us keep to our role.
    • In a letter to his son Lucien, 26 April 1900, as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock - , Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, p. 148


  • This Mr. Dewhurst has not understood the Impressionist movement in the very least. All he sees in it is a technical method.. .He also says that before going to London we knew nothing whatsoever about light; but we have studies that prove the contrary. He omits the influence of Claude Lorrain, Corot, all the 18th-century painters, Chardin most of all. But what he fails to realize is that while Turner and Constable were of service to us, they confirmed our suspicion that those painters had not understood 'The Analysis of Shadows', which in the case of Turner are always a deliberate effect, a plain dark patch. As to the division of tones, Turner confirmed us its value as a method, but not as a means of accuracy or truth to nature. In any case, the 18th century was our tradition. It seems to me that Turner too, had looked at w:Claude Lorrain. I am even inclined to think there is a picture by Turner, 'Sunset', hung side by side with a Claude.
    • In a letter to his son Lucien, 8 Mai 1903, as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock - , Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, p. 149
    • Quote of Pissarro - referring to the writer of the book Impressionist Painting, it Genesis and Development, published in 1904


  • [ Seurat's pointilist style ].. ..inhibits me and hinders the development of spontaneity of sensation.
    • Quoted in: Arts and Activities. Vol. 81-82, (1977), p. cxxxvii


  • Work is a wonderful regulator of mind and body. I forget all sorrow, grief, bitterness, and I even ignore them altogether in the joy of working.
    • In a letter to his son, Lucien; as quoted in: Brother Thomas (O.S.B.), ‎Rosemary Williams (1999) Creation Out of Clay: The Ceramic Art and Writings of Brother Thomas. p. 45

21th century[edit]

  • Never paint except with the three primary colors [red, blue, and yellow] and their derivatives.
    • Attributed to Pisarro in Philip Ball (2001() Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Color. p. 178
    • Advise to his students to lightening their palette and remove colours such as black, ocher and sienna


Quotes about Camille Pissarro[edit]

  • It was then [c. 1873], as I remember that Cézanne began to paint with vertical divisions and Papa [Camille Pissarro] adopted the long brush to paint in little comma's. A peasant who had watched them side by side at Auvers, remarked that 'M. Pissarro at working, made little stabs at the canvas ('il piquait'), and M. Cézanne laid on the paint like plaster ('il plaquait'). [Cézanne's painting 'Small house at Auvers' is painted with some of these vertical divisions that Lucien [the son of Camille Pissarro, and later also a painter] noted then.
    • w:Lucien Pissarro; as quoted in Pissarro, His Life and Work, Shikes and Harper, Horizon Press, 1980, p. 128


  • That is why, perhaps, all of us derive Pissarro. He had the good luck to be born in the West Indies, where he learned how to draw without a teacher. He told me all about it. In 1865 he was already cutting out black, bitumen, raw sienna and the ocher's. That’s a fact. Never paint with anything but the three primary colours and their derivatives, he used to say me. Yes, he was the first Impressionist.
    • Quote by Paul Cézanne in: 'What he told me – I. The motif', in Joachim Gasquet’s Cézanne, - a Memoir with Conversations, (1897 - 1906); Thames and Hudson, London 1991; p. 164


  • What dreadful weather always [c. 1876] raining the poor flowers were hardly open when the rain killed them our big red poppies didn't even have time to appear before they disappeared and the roses, poor roses it's so sad and what mud, impossible to put your feet out of doors. ..it's so cold that the asparagus haven't come out, nor have the peas or the beans I planted. Most of them have rotted I'll have to plant them all over again. Luckily we are not ready to eat them yet, by the grace of God. Write to us and tell me what you are doing
    • his wife Julie Pissarro, in a letter to her husband (Spring 1876) about the bad weather, as quoted in The private lives of the Impressionists, Sue Roe, Harpen Collins Publishers, New York 2006, p. 179


  • It's like Impressionism. They all do it at the Salons. Oh, very discreetly! I too was an Impressionist. I don't conceal the fact. Pissarro had an enormous influence on me. Bit I wanted to make out of Impressionism something solid and lasting like the art of the museums.
    • Quote by Paul Cézanne in: 'What he told me – I. The motif', in Joachim Gasquet’s Cézanne, - a Memoir with Conversations, (1897 - 1906); Thames and Hudson, London 1991; p. 164


  • Until the war [between France and Germany, c. 1870], as you know, my life was a mess. I wasted it. It was only at l'Estaque, (1870-1871) when I thought things over, that I really understood Pissarro, a painter like myself.. .He was a determined man. I was overcome by a passion for work. It wasn't that I hadn't been working before, I was always working. But what I always missed, you know, was a comrade..
    • Quote by Paul Cézanne in: 'What he told me – III. The Studio' in Joachim Gasquet’s Cézanne, - a Memoir with Conversations, (1897 - 1906); Thames and Hudson, London 1991; p. 208


External links[edit]

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