Biography of Camille Pissarro

Camille Jacob Pissarro was born on 10th July 1830 on the island of St Thomas in the Danish West Indies (now the US Virgin Islands), the fourth son of Abraham Pissarro, a French Jew from Bordeaux, and Rachel Manzana-Pommie, a Creole from Dominica who had been widowed and was seven years older that her second husband. The Abraham Pissarro ran a general store in Charlotte Amalie, the capital and port of St Thomas.

Between the ages of twelve and seventeen Camille attended a boarding school in Passy, a suburb of Paris. It is said that the director of the school encouraged the boy's artistic learning by imploring him to draw coconut palm from nature when he returned to the West Indies. In 1847 Camille was back in St Thomas following the advice in his spare time.

Camille Pissarro remained in St Thomas until 1853 when went to Venezuela with the Danish artist Fritz Melbye. For two years in Caracas Pissarro practiced drawing and attempted his first watercolors under the thoughtful eye of Melbye. 1855nhe arrived in Paris and during the next couple of years he worked as Anton Melbye's assistant, and studied at the free Academie Suisse where he met Claude Monet.

Several important relationships developed for the painter in 1860. Working in the countryside around Paris one of his constant companions was Ludovic Piette, with whom Pissarro struck up a life-long friendship. At about the same time he became closely attached to Julie Vellay, who was his mother's maid.

In 1863 the first of Pissarro and Julie Vellay's seven children, Lucien, was born. Julie had in fact suffered a miscarriage the year before. Pissarro was devoted father to his children. Two year late Abraham Pissarro died, precipitating a financial crisis for Camille Pissarro and his growing family; now they had a daughter, Jeanne.

By 1867 the artist and his family moved to Pontoise, a village on the river Oise near Auvers, where they remained until 1869 and then settled in Louveciennes.

The outbreak of war on 19th July 1870 forced Camille Pissarro to move to safety, first to Piette's farm in Brittany and then in December they crossed the English Channel to a suburb of London where Pissarro's mother was already living. There he finally married Julie Vellay, already pregnant with their third child.

The fall of the Paris Commune and the end of war in 1871 allowed Pissarro and his family to return to Louveciennes. In November their second son, George, was born. In 1872 they moved back to Pontoise where they remained until 1882.

April 1974 was a traumatic month for the artist. In the Impressionist' first exhibition his innovative landscapes were condemned along with the others. Following his critical failure Pissarro's nine years old daughter, Jeanne, died the same month.

In 1884 the Pissarro family had moved to Eragny where they eventually bought the same house they had leased. In May 1889 his mother died at the age of ninety-four. The same year Camille Pissarro began to suffer from an eye infection, forcing him to work indoors, but not inhibiting his flow of work.

Camille Pissarro died in Paris on 13th November 1903 of blood poisoning caused by an abscess of the prostate: his homeopathic doctor had attempted to cure it without operation.