If I were to ask you what Camille Pissarro, Dermot Morgan (Ted), Abraham, Christmas, William, Steve Martin, God, Time, and Marlon Brando have in common, would you be able to come up with the solution? I’ll give you a couple of seconds…
Father! They have all been referred to as “Father”. Many people (especially the British amongst us) will have heard of, and spent many an evening laughing at, Father Ted. Fathers Christmas and Time are personifications, both of whom appear in the Chronicles of Narnia interestingly enough. Father William is the hero of Lewis Carol’s satirical poem in Alice in Wonderland, and Father Abraham and God the Father are biblical references. Steve Martin and Marlon Brando have been “Fathers” in different ways: Father of the Bride, and the GodFATHER. “Father” is used as a mark of respect, as a title, and to indicate wisdom and age. Pissarro – nicknamed by his fellow Impressionists as Father Pissarro – falls into the “respect” and “wisdom” categories.
Considered to be the forebear of Impressionism, he began the process of opening up art’s eyes to the virtues of painting life as it was, rather than the idealised version. He would often paint a landscape in one sitting, outside at his easel, and capture life in the moment, rather than go back to his studio and romanticise the painting. Needless to say, this approach was looked upon with horror by many of his contemporaries. But then again, what new fad isn’t? Although Pissarro’s works were not held in high esteem by society until after his death, he found acceptance when he fell in with the Impressionists, artists such as Monet, Degas, Cassatt, and Renoir.
Like any good club, a President was chosen – and this happened to be Pissarro (I’m sure that in the Impressionist-code, “Father Pissarro” actually stood for President Pissarro.) He did not even need a “Vote for Pedro Pissarro” badge. Personally, I think Pissarro well-deserved his honorary title. Whilst his paintings did not change life as we know it, they certainly helped capture it, and thereby kick-started the progression of change in artistic perspectives of the time and ever since. Father Christmas on the other hand? He needs to come up with some better Christmas card designs!
To discover more about Pissarro, his prints, and his paintings, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. is hosting a temporary exhibition Pissarro on Paper, hosted by the gallery until the 31st March 2013. Decide for yourselves whether his innovation and new techniques entitle him to be labelled as “Father Pissarro” or not. Otherwise, why not judge the complete picture with the help of Nathalia Brodskaya’s Mega-Square book, Impressionism?