the boulevard montmartre at night

10

Camille Pissarro (1830–1903, France)

Boulevard Montmartre series

Pissarro was a Danish-French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painter. He studied from great forerunners, including Gustave Courbet and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, then later studied and worked alongside Georges Seurat and Paul Signac when he took on the Neo-Impressionist style at the age of 54, before abandoning it as a stylistic dead-end later in life.

In 1873 he helped establish a collective society of fifteen aspiring artists, becoming the “pivotal” figure in holding the group together and encouraging the other members. Art historian John Rewald called Pissarro the “dean of the Impressionist painters”, not only because he was the oldest of the group, but also “by virtue of his wisdom and his balanced, kind, and warmhearted personality”. Cézanne said “he was a father for me. A man to consult and a little like the good Lord,” and he was also one of Gauguin’s masters. Renoir referred to his work as “revolutionary”, through his artistic portrayals of the “common man”, as Pissarro insisted on painting individuals in natural settings without “artifice or grandeur”.

Pissarro is the only artist to have shown his work at all eight Paris Impressionist exhibitions, from 1874 to 1886. He “acted as a father figure not only to the Impressionists” but to all four of the major Post-Impressionists, including Georges Seurat, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin.

Towards the end of his life, Pissarro encountered sight problems which prevented him painting in the plein air (open air) style that he had pioneered. During this time he often painted the landscape outside of his windows, and his series of paintings of the Boulevard Montmartre are a famous example of this.