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Lucien Pissarro (1863 - 1944)

Shaftesbury

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Colour crayons and watercolour on paper
12.7 x 21.6 cm (4 ⅞ x 8 ¼ inches)
Signed with monogram lower left
Inscribed and dated lower right Shaftesbury 1916

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  • Provenance

    James Brown, circa 1916 (possibly a gift from the artist)
    Edith Brown (wife of the above)
    Michael Parkin Fine Art Ltd., London
    A.J. MacDonald-Buchanan
    Miss C.G. Foreman

  • Description

    This work is accompanied by a letter of authenticity from Colin Harrison, Senior Curator of European Art at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

    This work dates from the summer or autumn of 1916, when the artist was staying at the Old Manor, Sedgehill, Shaftesbury. By early October, he had moved a few miles away to East Knoyle, where he remained until the following spring. 

    This was an especially productive period in Lucien's life as a landscape artist, after he had given up designing and printing books for his Éragny Press. His naturalization papers, signed in July 1916, offered him for the first time the security of having a certain nationality, British, which was especially important in the time of war. As his brother Ludovic-Rodo discovered, the French considered Camille Pissarro's childen to be Danish, and the Danish thought them French; so they were effectively stateless. In addition to the paintings of Sedgehill, Milton and East Knoyle, Lucien planned but did not execute several views of Shaftesbury. These are recorded in sketchbook 62 in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and in a number of finished drawings and watercolours such as the present work.

    The provenance of the drawing is especially interesting. It comes from the collection of Edith Brown, whose husband was James Brown (1863-1943). Although Brown was an exact contemporary of Lucien's, he did not begin painting seriously until 1912, when his work attracted the attention of the critic, Frank Rutter, who introduced him to Lucien. In early 1913, Brown and Lucien went on a painting expedition to Devon, and later in the same year, they were joined by James Bolivar Manson to holiday at Rye. In the following year, Manson was with Lucien at Chipperfield, and Brown spent a weekend with him at Farnham. The three came together once again in the last fortnight in September, while Lucien was at Shaftesbury. Hitherto, the only evidence for Brown's presence has been the tiny sketch he made of Lucien Pissarro painting at Sedgehill; but Lucien's drawing of Shaftesbury confirms that he was there. No doubt, Lucien gave it to Brown as a sourvenir of another happy holiday together.

Artist's Biography

Lucien Pissarro was born on 20 February 1863 in Paris, the eldest son of Camille Pissarro and Julie Vellay.

He first visited England in 1870, when the Pissarro family fled to London during the Franco-Prussian War. In June 1871, they returned to Louveciennes and shortly thereafter moved to Pontoise. As a child, Lucien was in the constant company of his father’s peers – Cézanne, Manet and Monet, in particular. In such surroundings, and nurtured by the constant encouragement, advice and instruction of his father, Lucien began to draw and paint. He became a skilled painter in oils and watercolour, a wood engraver and a lithographer.

Lucien returned to England in 1883, a visit marking the beginning of a long association with the country. On his return to France in spring 1884, his activities rapidly expanded to making children’s books, studying the technique of wood engraving and learning the process of printing colour blocks. In 1885, he and Camille met Paul Signac and Georges Seurat, whose influence was apparent in the eighth Impressionist exhibition of 1886, when father and son exhibited their experiments with the Divisionist technique.

In 1890, Lucien moved to England permanently. He married Esther Bensusan in 1892 and in 1894, founded the Eragny Press in Hammersmith, which published limited editions of beautifully illustrated books. Several titles were published between 1894 and 1914, the first being Queen of the Fishes.

Lucien’s work is fascinating for its combination of French and English artistic traditions. As the son of Camille and a firsthand witness of the Impressionist movement, Lucien played a vital role in championing Impressionism in England. He was a founding member of the Camden Town Group (withdrawing when it was absorbed by the London Group), an exhibiting society of artists, the name of which has become synonymous with a distinctive style of painting and period in British art history before the First World War.

In 1916, Lucien became a naturalised British subject. From 1913-19, he recorded the English landscape of Dorset, Westmorland, Devon, Essex, Surrey and Sussex, without theatrical or romantic overtones. He made his first of many prolonged visits to the South of France in 1922. These visits, interspersed with seasons in Derbyshire, South Wales and Essex, continued until 1937. To the end, landscape remained his chosen means of expression; only rarely did he produce still-lifes, and the handful of portraits he painted were all of his family.

Of all of Camille’s seven children, Lucien was perhaps closest to his father. After his first visit to England, Camille initiated a long and almost daily correspondence with his son, and these letters constitute an important document in the history of Impressionism.

Lucien Pissarro