Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Applie Picking at Eragny-sur-Epte, 1888, Oil on canvas, 73 x 50 cm, Dallas Museum of Art.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), The Harvest, 1882, Tempera on canvas, 70.3 x 126 cm, The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. Donated by the heirs of Mr. Kojiro Matsukata, P.1984-3.

Camille Pissarro, Artist of the People, Painter of Working People

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Apple-Picking, 1886, Oil on canvas, 125.8 x 127.4 cm. Ohara Museum of Art, 1008.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Jeanne Pissarro, Called Minette, Sitting in the Garden, Pontoise, ca. 1872, Oil on canvas, 73 x 60 cm, Private collection.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), La Petite Bonne de campagne (The Little Country Maid), 1882, Oil on canvas, 86,5 x 75 x 10 cm, Tate, Bequeathed by Lucien Pissarro, the artist's son 1944.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Jeanne Holding a Fan, c.1874, Oil on canvas, 56 x 46.5 cm. (The Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, Pissarro Family, Gift, 1951, WA1952.6.2.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), In the Garden at Pontoise: A Young Woman Washing Dishes, 1882, Oil on canvas, 81.9 x 65.3 cm, The Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Acquired with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund, 1947, PD.53-1947.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), The Maidservant, 1875, Oil on canvas, 88.9 x 68.6 cm. Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia, gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., 71.530.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), The Market in Gisors, 1887, Watercolor on paper, 31.4 x 24 cm, Columbus Museum of Art.


Legion of Honor
Lincoln Park
100 34th Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94122
Pissarro’s People
October 22, 2011-January 22, 2012

Pissarro’s People brings us face to face with one of the most complex and captivating members of the Impressionist group, a man whose life was as quietly revolutionary as his art. The exhibition offers a groundbreaking perspective on Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), the painter and printmaker best known for his large body of landscapes and urban views. This is the first exhibition to focus on Pissarro’s personal ties and social ideas through his lifelong engagement with the human figure.

Based on extensive new  scholarship by curator Dr. Richard R. Brettell, the exhibition brings together more than 100 oil paintings and works on paper from public and private collections around the world. Ranging from Pissarro’s earliest years in Paris until his death in 1903, these works explore the three dimensions of his life that are essential to a full understanding of the human element in his art: his family ties, his friendships and his intense intellectual involvement with the social and political theories of his time.

According to Brettell, “Scholars have tended to treat Pissarro’s politics and his art in two separate categories, often refusing to see the most basic connections between them. This is largely because Pissarro was less a political activist than a social and economic philosopher. The title of the exhibition, Pissarro’s People, is not merely an allusion to his politics, but points to a larger attempt to explore all aspects of his humanism. The exhibition embodies his pictorial humanism and creates a series of contexts, linking his web of family and friends to his profound social and economic concerns.”

Exhibition Highlights Presiding over the powerful themes of this exhibition are three of the artist’s four major self-portraits, starting with his earliest Self-Portrait (1873) from the Musée d’Orsay, painted at the age of 43. Pissarro’s People is the first exhibition to bring these works together with portrait likenesses of every member of the artist’s  immediate family, reflecting the importance that he attached to his roles as devoted husband and father.

Pissarro was the only Impressionist who made figure paintings in which the domestic worker is the central motif. The exhibition brings together an extraordinary group of paintings representing maidservants and washerwomen, including The Maidservant (1875, Chrysler Museum of Art), Washerwoman, Study (1880, The Metropolitan Museum of Art), The Little Country Maid (1882, Tate Collection) and In the Garden at Pontoise: A Young Woman Washing Dishes (1882, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge). The key theme of domestic labor is linked, in turn, to Pissarro’s views on agricultural labor and the market economy in works such as The Harvest (1882, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo), The Gisors Market (1887, Columbus Museum of Art) and his remarkable, biting album of anarchist drawings titled Turpitudes sociales (1889-90, private collection) which is being shown for the first time.

Pissarro held firm to the belief that the miseries of modern capitalist society would inevitably lead to revolution in Europe, and in his late multifigure rural genre paintings, he envisioned a better world as he imagined it would appear in the aftermath of such a momentous uprising. His late scenes of the grain harvest in Haymakers, Evening, Éragny(1893, Joslyn Art Museum), apple picking in Apple Harvest (1888, Dallas Museum of Art) and potato planting are utterly joyous in feeling, bathed in an idealized glow of light and  health and abundance.

The Artist Pissarro was in many ways a political and ethnic outsider in his adopted country of France. Born into a Sephardic Jewish family on the Danish colony of Saint Thomas in the Caribbean on July 10, 1830, he would never become a French citizen. He died a Danish citizen in Paris on November 13, 1903.

Pissarro’s lifelong interest in the human condition is unique among Impressionist landscape painters. From his early years in the Caribbean and Venezuela until his death, he produced a vast oeuvre of drawings, paintings and prints dedicated to the human figure. He was also a committed reader of radical social, political and economic theory. His profound knowledge of social philosophy, which informs much of his art, far exceeded that of any other significant painter of the period.

A fully illustrated catalogue written by Brettell accompanies the exhibition and elucidate its themes. The conclusions in the publication are also based on hundreds of newly discovered and largely unpublished letters written to Pissarro, which have been located in public and private archives and expand upon existing scholarship. In addition to including images of all of the paintings, drawings, and prints in the exhibition, the publication extends its visual survey to other works by Pissarro and his colleagues and friends, positioning his pictorial achievement in a context that is at once art historical, intellectual, and biographical.

Pissarro’s People was organized by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. It is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Mme Pissarro Sewing beside a Window, c.1877, Oil on canvas, 54 x 45 cm. The Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, Pissarro Family Gift, 1951, WA1951.225.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Self-Portrait, 1873, Oil on canvas, 56 x 46.5 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Gift of Paul-Émile Pissarro, 1930, RF 2837.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Washerwoman, Study, 1880, Oil on canvas, 73 x 59.1 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Nate B. Spingold, 1956, 56.184.1.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), The Gardener – Old Peasant with Cabbage, 1883-1895, Oil on canvas, 81.5 x 65 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1994.59.6.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), The Marketplace, 1882, Gouache on paper, 80.6 x 64.8 cm, Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Private collection, L.1984.54.1, PV 1361.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), The Hanged Millionaire, from Les Turpitudes sociales, 1889-90, Pen and brown ink over graphite drawings on paper pasted in an album, sheet: 31 x 24 cm. Collection of Jean Bonna, Geneva.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Suicide, from Les Turpitudes Sociales, 1889-90, Pen and brown ink over graphite drawings on paper pasted in an album, sheet: 31 x 24 cm. Collection of Jean Bonna, Geneva.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Haymakers, Evening, Éragny, 1893, Oil on canvas, 54.3 x 65.4 cm. Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska, Endowment Fund Purchase, JAM1946.28.