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Orovida Camille Pissarro (1893 - 1968)

Dinka with a Bongo

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Egg tempera on linen, laid on board
85 x 62.3 cm (33 ½ x 24 ½ inches)
Signed and dated lower right Orovida 1937

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  • Provenance

    Redfern Gallery, London, August 1937
    Collection of Mrs Tongo, from whence to:
    Sotheby's, London,15th December 1965
    Royal Academy, London 11th May 1966, no. 728
    Reverend Canon Ernest A Bawtree, Cambridgeshire, England
    Gillian Jason Gallery, London, acquired from the above, 8th November 1984
    Christie's, London, 7th June 1985

  • Exhibitions

    London, Redfern Gallery, Summer Salon, 5th August - 25th September 1937, no. 12
    London, Royal Academy, 1966, no. 728

  • Literature

    K L Erickson, Orovida Pissarro: Painter and Print-Maker with A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, (doctoral thesis), Oxford, 1992, Appendices, no. 51, p. 56 (illustrated)

  • Description

    Orovida’s first series of imaginative works, executed in the 1920s and 30s, reflect her interest in non-Western art. This was largely fuelled by the fashion for Orientalism in fin-de-siècle France, but also by the works of Paul Gauguin and those of her uncle Georges Manzana Pissarro, particularly his solo show at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 1914. Orovida was struck by her uncle’s Orientalist and Decorative portraits and his use of gold and silver. The flattening of the picture plane and the increasingly stylised treatment of her subjects would also have been influenced by exhibitions which she frequented in London, including a presentation on Persian art at Burlington house in 1930-31 as well as her numerous trips to the British Museum. To Orovida, non-Western art offered greater creative freedom, as she later wrote: ‘Western art has led straight to the photo and eastern art is still free.’ As a result, her early works often show subjects such as Mongolian horse-riders, African dancers, Persian princes and exotic animals executed in egg tempera and bodycolour which she made herself and applied in thin, delicate washes to silk, linen and paper sometimes embellished with brocade borders. Ironically, Orovida once famously stated in a newspaper interview that the furthest east she had ever travelled was the British Museum.

Artist's Biography

Orovida, the only child of Lucien and Esther Pissarro, was the first woman in the Pissarro family to become a professional artist and the first Pissarro of her generation to take up painting. Born in Epping, England, in 1893, she lived and worked predominantly in London, where she was a prominent member of several British arts clubs and societies.

She first learned to paint in the Impressionist style from her father and, after a brief period of formal study with Walter Sickert in 1913, she renounced formal art schooling.

Throughout her career, Orovida always remained outside mainstream British art movements. Much to Lucien's disappointment, she soon turned away from naturalistic painting and developed an unusual style that combined elements of Japanese, Chinese, Persian and Indian art. Her rejection of Impressionism, which, for the Pissarro family, was a way of life, and her simultaneous decision to drop her famous last name and use simply Orovida as a nom de peintre, reflected a desire for independence from the family legacy, of which she nevertheless remained proud.

Orovida's most distinctive works are her paintings of the 1920s and 30s in gouache (she called her mixture bodycolour) and tempera, applied in thin, delicate washes to silk, linen, paper or gold leaf and embellished with brocade borders. These elegant and richly decorative works generally depict non-Western subjects, for example: Mongolian horse-riders, African dancers and Persian princes, often engaged in activities such as dancing or hunting rituals.

The second half of Orovida's painting career is marked by a dramatic change in both style and subject matter. In the mid-1940s, she began to embrace contemporary subjects from everyday life and returned to a more naturalistic style. Her new style was more suited to oils, and thus, she returned to that media.

Throughout her life, Orovida was aware of the mixed blessing of having famous artists in the family; not only a grandfather and father but also four uncles, and towards the end of her life, she was instrumental in developing the Pissarro family archive that her mother had established at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Orovida Camille Pissarro