Camille Pissarro (1830–1903) was a famous Danish-French Impressionist painter. Specializing in landscape drawing, he is perhaps best known for his beautiful Impressionistic renditions of urban and country landscapes. Like a true modern artist, Pissarro was a prolific painter who completed over 1,000 pieces of artwork in his lifetime.
He is often referred to as the father of Post-Impressionism, not only for his contribution to the movement itself but also for the pivotal role he played in personally guiding and influencing practically all the great Impressionist painters, such as Paul Cezanne, Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and even Claude Monet.
Pissarro established and instituted several fundamental principles that the Impressionist movement would later be based on, such as painting outdoors and using watercolors. The following is a look into Camille Pissarro’s most famous paintings from the time he spent in England, particularly the great city of London.
Upper Norwood, Crystal Palace, London (1870)
When listing Camille Pissarro’s most famous paintings, almost all take place outside. Being an Impressionist painter, the French artist adored nature and being outside in the fresh air with a paintbrush in his hand. The days of the artist cooping up in a cramped studio were long gone.
The modern art movement saw artists take a more hands-on and intimate approach toward painting, and there is no better example of this than Camille Pissarro and his artwork. The Frenchman loved to travel around the cities and countryside of France, painting nature in all its glory.
With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, Pissarro decided to leave France and took up residence just outside of London, England, for a while. He spent over a year there, painting dozens of paintings of the local scenery. Upper Norwood, Crystal Palace, is a beautifully charming and colorful piece pointed to as one of the early prototypes of the Impressionist way of painting.
Charing Cross Bridge, London (1890)
Charing Cross Bridge is arguably Camille Pissarro’s most famous London painting from his time spent there. It is often mentioned among the list of Camille Pissarro most famous painting. Bridges were often featured in the French Impressionist paintings and were a favorite feature of his to paint.
Dozens of his landscape drawings feature bridges in one capacity or another. Many artists have been interested in bridges for their environmental, cultural, and symbolic significance. In addition, bridges represent a whole array of deeply philosophical metaphors, such as the conquering of nature and human connection.
In the painting, the bridge is the central character of the piece. It runs flat along the foreground, in front of behind the misty silhouette of the imposing city. Its airy color tone and tranquil waters give off an impression of serenity, and alongside the bridge and the city, represent harmony and interconnectedness.
Dulwich College, London (1871)
Pissarro didn’t enjoy much commercial success during his time in London. Nevertheless, he continued painting for the sport of it and produced some beautiful landscape drawings. Dulwich College is considered one of, if not the best, paintings Pissarro painted during this period.
Contained within its rather simple composition, the French Impressionist artist laid out all the benchmarks that the Impressionist movement would draw from its inspiration and identity. Its hazy, wavy, and dreamy appearance, accompanied by its lack of cohesive detail, were considered wildly experimental at the time.
The painting is like a dream or a memory rather than anything resembling this world. The lone figure of the woman and the jagged gnarling trees give off an uneasy impression, while the color tone and reflection of the college in the lake give off a contrasting feeling of warmth and wonder.
London, St. Paul’s Cathedral (1890)
After almost 20 years of studying his craft and working alongside other great artistic minds such as George Seurat and Paul Signac, Pissarro eventually returned to London to conduct another collection of paintings. By this time, his style had molded and evolved into what became known as Neo-Impressionism.
Neo-Impressionism is defined by its emphasis on light and color being the major feature of the work. Neo-Impressionists believed that color was vitally linked with emotion and the stirring up of emotions. Different colors evoke distinct emotions, and, as the mood was most important to Impressionists, color should take precedence, even over form.
St. Paul’s Cathedral is an excellent example of the Neo-principles in action. Both the color and lack of color complement each other perfectly. This particular Pissarro landscape drawing can be used as a primary example of exactly what Neo-Impressionist artists were looking to achieve with their “color first” artwork.
Kensington Gardens, London (1890)
Pissarro painted two paintings of Kensington Gardens during his second visit to London, one in oil on canvas and another in watercolor. Both pieces follow a similar theme and are highly stylized in a heavy Impressionist fashion.
Both paintings mix three normally separate factors, i.e., cityscape, landscape, and figure portraits. Pissarro blends these three aspects beautifully here. The unique style of cityscape rendering was trending at the time and was made popular by George Seurat and others.
It proposes the question of humankind’s place in both nature and the larger cosmos. With Pissarro’s particular style, though, the people present and the environment surrounding them are proposed as almost dreamlike or imaginary. He takes the real-life location of Kensington Gardens and transforms it into a transient masterpiece.
Camille Pissarro’s paintings from his time in London tell you all about the painter and his artistic principles. Their deep emotional impressions and shimmering color schemes come together to form works of art that would greatly influence the world of art for the next hundred years.