Camille Pissarro was born 7/10/1830 in the Danish West Indies, the son of a French-Portuguese merchant and a Creole woman. At age twelve he was sent to a boarding school in Passy, where he took his first lessons in painting. Returning to St. Thomas in 1847 Pissarro worked as a clerk in his father’s store and drew at the harbor whenever he found time. Five years later, forsaking his father’s business, he sailed with a Danish painter, Fritz Melbye, to Caracas to paint. In 1855 his father agreed to send him back to Paris to study art, and he worked at both the École des Beaux-Arts and the more informal Académie Suisse, where he met Monet.
Pissarro was particularly interested in the works of Courbet and Corot, whom he visited several times seeking advice. Corot allowed Pissarro to list him as his teacher in the catalogue of his first Salon exhibitions in 1864 and 1865. In 1863 he had participated in the Salon des Refusées with three paintings, and in the mid-1860s he lived with members f the nascent Impressionist movement at Pontoise and Louveciennes. In 1870 at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, Pissarro and Monet met again in London, where they were received enthusiastically by Durand-Ruel, who exhibited their work in his London gallery and later in Paris.
When Pissarro returned to France after the war, he found that his studio had been ravaged by the Prussians and much of his work destroyed. In 1872 he settled at Pontoise, where he was soon joined by Cézanne. Pissarro introduced Cézanne to plein-air painting and the two artists worked frequently together (as also did Gauguin). At the same time, he absorbed Cézanne’s solid sense of composition. Abandoning the official salon, he participated in the first independent showing of the Impressionists in 1874 and remained the most loyal member of the group, contributing to all the subsequent exhibitions.
In 1884 Pissarro came in contact with Seurat and Signac. He experimented with their divisionist techniques from about 1886 to 1890, but gradually abandoned them as too rigid. Returning to a freer brushstroke, he retained the fresh, pure color of the divisionists and devoted himself to new subjects. From 1895 the worsening of his eye-trouble forced him to give up working en plein air, and he painted many town views from windows in Paris. He died blind in 1903.