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Known as the father of Impressionism, Camille Pissarro was a Danish-French artist born in the US Virgin Islands - known at the time as the Island of St Thomas in the Danish West Indies - in July 1830. At twelve years old, he studied at Savary Academy in Passy, a boarding school near Paris. During this time he was already interested in the artworks of the past masters, and Monsieur Savary helped him learn the fundamentals of painting and drawing. He also encouraged the young artist to paint what he observed in nature and Pissarro followed his suggestion after returning to his hometown at seventeen years old.
After his return, he befriended the Danish art teacher Fritz Melbye who influenced him to take on painting as a full-time activity. The master and student abandoned everything - including family - to spend the next two years in Venezuela, where they worked as artists in cities like La Guaira and Caracas portraying the local people, architecture, and landscapes. In 1855, Pissarro returned to Paris and continued to work with art, this time with Fritz Melbye’s brother, Anton. During this period, he would study the paintings of Realist artists like Corot, Jean-François Millet, Courbet, and Charles-François Daubigny. He ventured in the Classical teachings of the Académie Suisse and the École des Beaux-Arts but wasn’t entirely satisfied with the teaching methods, and eventually sought alternative styles, which was taught to him by Corot.
Initially, Pissarro’s work fit into the standards of the Paris Salon, having his first painting accepted in 1859, under the tutoring of Corot. Both artists enjoyed nature immensely, and because of his teacher, Pissarro began to paint outdoors - a practice that became known as painting en plein air. He would eventually paint more in the countryside than in the city. Like most Impressionists, Pissarro finished his oil painting on sight - different from his teacher, who only began his work on location and finished in his studio. The style of the Impressionists was severely criticized because of its striking features, bold colors, and lack of definition.
In 1873, Pissarro joined other artists in an exhibition they called the Salon des Refusés - referring to their rejection from the Paris Salon. He was extremely influential among his peers; his paintings were referred to as revolutionary by Renoir, and he was a father figure to artists of the Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, like Cézanne. The group of avant-guard artists was inspired by the colorful Japanese prints that arrived in Europe, which portrayed scenes the everyday life and nature. Landscapes painted by Romanticist artists like John Constable and J.W.M. Turner were also an inspiration to Pissarro and other modern painters, as they were partially concluded outdoors.
The French artist took a different direction with his style of painting after meeting Post-Impressionists Paul Signac and Georges Seurat. They were involved in a movement called Pointillism that took a scientific approach to the use of color. Pissarro spent about three years working with this laborious painting technique and even exhibited some artworks in the 1886 Impressionist Salon. He returned to his original style but with a more refined technique and color scheme. Pissarro developed eye problems as he got older which got worse if he was outdoors, forcing him to paint landscapes by observing from different windows. The Modern master participated in every Impressionist exhibit and passed away in Paris in November 1903.