Camille Pissarro’s Influence on Paul Gauguin

For Gauguin, there was perhaps no greater influence than that of Camille Pissarro. In the first half of the 1870’s, before Gauguin was a proper artist, he was working as a stockbroker in Paris and befriending artists and collecting their work. He was drawn to work by artists that would later be known as the Impressionists, including Camille Pissarro.


Camille Pissarro was in his mid 40’s around the time he became acquainted with Gauguin. The exact year they met is not known, but Gauguin was aware of Pissarro’s paintings through a mutual friend and collector by 1873.

It was around this time that Gauguin was beginning to develop as a painter. He was well aware of the landscapes that Pissarro was doing and saw them in shows and private collections. These early works by Gauguin were quite different than those he would produce a decade later. They have more natural colors, resembling the landscapes and still lifes before him. Gauguin was yet to travel to the exotic locales of the pacific islands and was painting scenes from the outskirts of Paris. And yet, while the colors were realistic and the subject matter subdued, he incorporated the painterly style that would define Impressionism. He was clearly inspired by Pissarro, and on occasion, was producing works of comparable quality to the more mature and established artist.

The Impressionist’s show of 1879 saw Gauguin lend three paintings by Pissarro, establishing his relationship and friendship with the leader of the movement. It was also a big year and show for Gauguin. In earlier years he attempted to be included in Impressionist showings, but was apparently rejected, not yet taken seriously by Pissarro, Degas, and the established artists who extend invitations to show. However, in 1879, just weeks before the show was to start, Gauguin received a formal invitation to show with the likes of Pissarro, Degas, and Monet. In fact, the decision for his inclusion with the group was so close to the opening date that Gauguin is not mentioned in the brochure for the exhibit.

This would prove to be among the most valuable friendships for Gauguin. He spent the summer of 1879 painting with Pissarro, learning from the man who would be known as “The Father of the Impressionists.” Gauguin worked often with Pissarro in the 1880’s and continued to develop as an artist. He would go on to show in the remaining Impressionist shows.

Because of the relationship and influence of Pissarro, Gauguin went from a figure familiar to the Parisian art scene to a figure in the Parisian art scene.


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