La vie en pointillé

French Impressionist painter, Camille Pissaro, was born in the French Antilles on the island of Saint-Thomas on July 10, 1830. He moved to Paris as a young child. He was not formally trained, but learned to paint from his friends Jean-Baptiste Corot and Claude Monet. Pissarro began to exhibit at the “Salon des refusés” with the other Impressionists in 1863. He became close friends with Paul Cézanne. Pissarro specialized in landscapes and seascapes where he concentrated on the effects of light on the sea and sky. He settled in the town of Louveciennes, which he had to abandon during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. When Pissarro returned, his studio had been ransacked and all of his paintings had been destroyed. What a horrible loss.

 Pissarro met Paul Seurat and Paul Signac who introduced him to the new methods of pointillism, where colors are created through the juxtaposition of dots of colors to create the effect of another hue entirely. His new paintings didn’t sell however, and he returned to his earlier techniques. The return to his prior style paid off and he made enough money to buy a house at Eragny. It was during this later period that he began to paint urban scenes in Paris, Rouen, and Dieppe, again revisiting the pointillist style. He died on November 13, 1903, leaving behind a heritage of 1,500 canvases. His friend Cézanne paid him the posthumous compliment of saying that he was only the student of Pissarro.

 Today’s expression, la vie en pointillé (lah vee ehn pwan-tea-ay) literally means “life in dotted lines.” It’s used to refer to situations without well-defined parameters. Pissarro’s career may not have followed a straight line, as he veered from impressionism to pointillism and back again and from sea and landscapes to urban scenes, but he left a consistently impressive body of work.

About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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9 Responses to La vie en pointillé

  1. Ann Saul says:

    What a wonderful tribute fo Camille Pissarro–and indeed he did push the “dotted lines” more than anyone else. That’s what makes him so interesting and constantly surprising! I hope you get to live your dream in France.

    Ann Saul

  2. I really love your daily French quotes and interesting biographies on all things French! Having just visited Paris with the kids and seen a lot of Impressionist and Renaissance paintings in the Orsay and the Louvre, it’s fantastic to read your bite-sized bio’s on the painters lives. Keep up the great posts!

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