Camille Pissarro (1830 – 1903) was a Danish-French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painter born on the island of St Thomas in the West Indies. 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. Cézanne said "he was a father for me. A man to consult and a little like the good Lord," and Renoir referred to his work as "revolutionary". He 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.
When Camille was twelve his father sent him to boarding school in France. However, his father preferred he work in his business, giving him a job working as a cargo clerk. In 1855 he moved back to Paris where he began working under Danish painter Anton Melbye. He also studied paintings by other artists whose style impressed him: Courbet, Charles-François Daubigny, Jean-François Millet, and Corot. In 1859 his first painting was accepted and exhibited. His other paintings during that period were influenced by Camille Corot, who tutored him.
In 1859, while attending the free school, the Académie Suisse, Pissarro became friends with a number of younger artists who likewise chose to paint in the more realistic style. Among them were Claude Monet, Armand Guillaumin and Paul Cézanne. What they shared in common was their dissatisfaction with the dictates of the Salon. Pissarro agreed with the group about the importance of portraying individuals in natural settings, and expressed his dislike of any artifice or grandeur in his works, despite what the Salon demanded for its exhibits.
In 1871 he married his mother's maid, Julie Vellay, a vineyard grower's daughter, with whom he would later have seven children. They lived outside Paris in Pontoise and later in Louveciennes, both of which places inspired many of his paintings including scenes of village life, along with rivers, woods, and people at work. After the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, having only Danish nationality and being unable to join the army, he moved his family to Norwood, London where he met the Paris art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, who helped sell his art for most of his life.
When Pissarro returned to his home in France after the war, he discovered that of the 1,500 paintings he had done over 20 years, which he was forced to leave behind when he moved to London, only 40 remained. The rest had been damaged or destroyed by the soldiers, who often used them as floor mats outside in the mud to keep their boots clean. He reestablished his friendships with the other Impressionist artists of his earlier groupand expressed his opinion to the group that he wanted an alternative to the Salon so their group could display their own unique styles. He helped establish a separate collective, called the "Société Anonyme des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteurs et Graveurs,". In 1874, the group held their first 'Impressionist' Exhibition, which shocked and "horrified" the critics, who primarily appreciated only scenes portraying religious, historical, or mythological settings. They found fault with the Impressionist paintings on many grounds.
By the 1880s, Pissarro began to explore new themes and methods of painting to break out of what he felt was an artistic "mire". As a result, Pissarro went back to his earlier themes by painting the life of country people, which he had done in Venezuela in his youth.This period also marked the end of the Impressionist period due to Pissarro's leaving the movement. In 1885 he met Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, both of whom used very small patches of pure colours to create the illusion of blended colours and shading when viewed from a distance. Pissarro then spent the years from 1885 to 1888 practising what was referred to as pointillism.
Pissarro became the "only artist who went from Impressionism to Neo-Impressionism". Pissarro eventually turned away from Neo-Impressionism, claiming its system was too artificial, reverting to his earlier style.
The American impressionist Mary Cassatt, who at one point lived in Paris to study art, and joined his Impressionist group, noted that he was "such a teacher that he could have taught the stones to draw correctly.
During his lifetime, Pissarro sold few of his paintings. By the 21st century, however, his paintings were selling for millions. An auction record for the artist was set on 6 November 2007 at Christie's in New York, where a group of four paintings, Les Quatre Saisons (the Four Seasons), sold for $14,601,000. In November 2009 Le Pont Boieldieu et la Gare d'Orléans, Rouen, Soleil sold for $7,026,500 at Sotheby's in New York. In February 2014 the 1897 Le Boulevard de Montmartre, Matinée de Printemps, sold at Sotheby's in London for £19.9M.