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Lucien Pissarro

(1863 - 1944)

Lucien Pissarro was born in Paris, 20th February 1863, the eldest son of the Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro (1830-1903). A painter in oil and watercolour, a wood engraver and designer Lucien had studied in France under his father and exhibited at the last exhibition of the Impressionists in 1886, continuing to exhibit at the Salon des Independants 1886-1894. By 1886 Pissarro, having been imbued with a thorough understanding of the principles of Impressionism inherited from his father, was influenced by the pointillism of Georges Pierre Seurat (1859-1891) and experimenting with divisionism, painting with contrasting strokes of pure colour.

Having lived and worked in London in 1883, in 1890 Lucien settled in England, first living in London, and in 1892 married Esther Levi Bensusan living for several months in Eragny on the Oise North West of Paris. Returning to England, in 1893 Pissarro moved to Epping where he founded the Eragny Press 1894-1914. On arriving in London in 1890, as a wood engraver, who had previously produced illustrations for La Revue Illustrée, Pissarro moved in the arts and crafts circle, and in running the Eragny Press he produced the illustrations for a number of the books published. Some of these showed the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites, much to the concern of his father.

Now living at Stamford Brook in London, in 1903, after a hiatus, Pissarro returned to painting, the following year exhibiting at the New England Arts Club of which he had in the past been critical. He was rapidly to become a singularly influential figure for many young artists. Walter Sickert (1860-1942) was an admirer of Impressionism and Lucien with his sound knowledge of its principles and ideals became involved with Sickert, the mentor figure for so many aspiring artists, and his Fitzroy Street School around 1905. Through his father Camille and his friendship with Seurat and Signac, Lucien Pissarro was the link with Impressionism for the likes of Harold Gilman (1876-1919), and Spencer Gore (1878-1914), who was to become a firm friend, and the inspiration for their use of colour and divisionist technique.

In 1906 Pissarro was elected a member of the New English Arts Club and in 1911 was to become a founder member of the Camden Town Group, an alliance of artists for many of whom he had proved so influential.

In 1913 he held his first one-man exhibition at Carfax and Co and in 1919 with James Bolivar Manson founded the short-lived Monarro Group to exhibit works by followers of Impressionism. In 1928 Pissarro exhibited at the Venice Biennale and from 1934 exhibited at the Royal Academy, an institution which he had described to his father in 1883 as ‘quite as depressing as the Paris Salon’. He died at Hewood in Somerset, 10th July 1944, a British subject since 1916. Pissarro was a hugely influential landscape painter renowned for his use of colour and light defined by the principles and ideals of Impressionism.

His works can be found in museums in: Birmingham; Bradford; Hull; London; Manchester; Oxford; Southampton; Pittsburgh and Melbourne.