Camille Pissarro’s Childhood and Early Career

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The artist Pissarro was born in France in 1830 and moved to London at 17. He began studying art at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, earning a gold medal in 1847 and exhibiting his work there until 1850. The following year, he returned to France, where he spent much of the rest of his career.

Jacob-Abraham-Camille Pissarro, a painter, and printmaker, played a significant role in the development of Impressionism. Throughout his career, Pissarro remained committed to the idea of such alternate venues for exhibition. As a result, he was the only artist to exhibit his work in all eight Impressionist group exhibitions.

Those who knew him referred to him as “Father Pissarro”. He was an encouraging friend and mentor to important artists like Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin. In this article, we will examine the childhood and early career of the French Impressionist artist Pissarro. This article will reveal all about painter Pissarro’s formative stages that set the foundation for becoming the legendary painter he is.


  • Pissarro was born in the French town of Pontoise on July 10, 1830. He was the second of five children—three boys and two girls—and his father was a successful grain merchant.
  • In 1839 he began drawing lessons from his father at age nine, who taught him how to use charcoal and chalk while they worked together in their workshop during the day.
  • He continued his academics at the Lycée Condorcet school, where he studied art under Jules Eugène Lenepveu (1809-1868), one of France’s leading landscape painters during this period; however, it wasn’t until he joined an art club called “Les Élèves de l’École des Beaux-Arts” that Pissarro began exhibiting his work publicly.”


Pissarro was the third child of a Jewish merchant with Portuguese ancestry who had immigrated to France. The owner’s family resided above their store on Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas’ main thoroughfare. Camille’s parents sent him to school in Passy, close to Paris, when he was 12 years old. Early drawing prowess by the young Pissarro led to his interest in the Louvre’s treasures.

He left for St. Thomas at the age of 17, where his father anticipated that he would join the family business. However, Pissarro was more interested in drawing at the harbor, and after meeting the older artist Fritz Melbye, a visiting Danish painter, they set off for Venezuela in November 1852.

French Impressionist artist Pissarro drew a lot of sketches of street life while he was in Caracas. Then, in August 1854, he returned to St. Thomas. This time, his parents understood that no amount of arguing would make their son change his mind about wanting to be a painter. In the fall of 1855, he made his final departure for home, heading to Paris.

 The Fair, Dieppe: Sunny Afternoon – Camille Pissarro

Early Career

Pissarro came just in time to see contemporary art at the Paris Universal Exposition, where he was especially drawn to Camille Corot’s paintings. After that, he began taking private classes at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1856, and in 1861, he applied to work as a copyist at the Louvre.

Additionally, he participated in the Académie Suisse, a “free studio,” where he got to know future Impressionists Armand Guillaumin, Paul Cézanne, and Claude Monet. He also got to know Alfred Sisley and Pierre-Auguste Renoir through Monet.

Pissarro painted pictures of the West Indies throughout his formative years in France, working from memory and receiving advice from Melbye’s brother Anton. In 1859, first displaying his art at the Paris Salon, Pissarro referred to himself as “Pupil of A. Melbye”. The artist kept using that nickname until 1866. Corot gave him informal instruction as well and advised him to draw from nature.

Early Pissarro paintings frequently have a path or river that is vanishing in perspective and human figures that provide a feeling of size (typically seen from the back). These elements reflect Corot’s influence. However, in contrast to Corot’s art, which has a silvery tonality, his early pieces are blonde and green in color.

Impressionist Painting 

Pissarro was a member of the Impressionist group, a loose-knit group of painters who were inspired by nature and each other’s work. The Impressionists were united by their sheer desire to paint pictures that reflected light realistically, as well as an interest in depicting everyday life in rural France and Belgium during the 19th century.

Pissarro’s work is characterized by its simplicity and clarity—he painted landscapes with little detail or color (which gives them a dreamlike quality). These techniques allowed him to capture scenes from his travels on canvas without having to concentrate on accuracy or detail work outside of what was required for composition purposes only; instead, he focused on capturing fleeting moments within nature itself: sunrays shining off water rippling over rocks; birds flying overhead; flowers blooming along paths leading into forests or fields where animals roam freely among trees full of berries ripe for picking during summertime fruit harvests.

The Final Years

By 1890, Pissarro thought he had finally figured out how to achieve the unity in painting he had sought throughout his career. However, others, like the dealer Georges Bernheim, also noticed how his art had changed since Impressionism’s heyday.

At this point in his career, when other Impressionist painters like Monet, Renoir, and Sisley were moving away from the theme of the city, Pissarro turned his attention back to it with a series of paintings of views of Paris, the very first taken from a hotel window facing the Gare Saint-Lazare. At this station, he arrived from Eragny. He also worked on multiple canvases while painting serial views of the Rouen Cathedral and the port city of Le Havre. This technique was subsequently notably adopted by Monet.

He achieved the unity he had long desired by bringing colors and tones into harmony and using a steady brushstroke to cover the entire canvas.


Pissarro was one of the most significant artists of the 19th century. He was a great influence on other Impressionists, including Monet and Renoir. His masterpieces are held in many museums worldwide, including The Louvre in Paris and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Pissarro’s style evolved, with his focus on depicting nature changing over time from landscapes to cityscapes. His brushstrokes became more intimate, like those seen in his later paintings, where he used fewer colors than others in this period.


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