Camille Pissarro: Prolific Impressionist Printmaker

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) was among the most significant players in the Impressionist movement and co-wrote the manifesto for the Société Anonyme Coopérative des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteurs et Graveurs. Of the eight exhibitions held by the Impressionists between 1874 to 1886, Pissarro was the only artist included in all eight. 

Pissarro’s Bathers, etching and drypoint, 1895.
Pissarro also employed lithography, as with this print, Femmes Nues, circa 1896.

And, of the Impressionists, Pissarro was the most prolific printmaker–producing approximately 200 etchings and lithographs in the years from 1863 to 1902. Technically, he pushed the medium to its limits through his manipulation of etching plates. In fact, Pissarro was so enthusiastic about the medium he purchased his own printing press in 1894. He experimented with Edgar Degas to produce prints with impressionistic effects and Degas also printed color proofs of some of Pissarro’s etchings. 

Pissarro’s collaboration with George W. Thornley resulted in several prints, including Le Vieux Quartier de Rouen, lithograph on Chine appliqué, circa 1900.

In 1883, following the advice of Claude Monet, Pissarro visited Rouen for the first time. The capital city of Normandy charmed the artist and it was there that he produced several etchings and drawings of the Seine, including serial views of the quays (inspired by Monet’s Rouen Cathedral series). Pissarro worked primarily en plein air during his initial visit to Rouen, before an eye condition worsened in 1893, leaving him unable to paint outdoors. In 1895, 1896 and 1989, during his three subsequent trips to Rouen, Pissarro adopted the practice of painting indoors in front of the windows of his hotel, where he had panoramic views and could capture the changing light and atmosphere of the city. 

Le Pont de Pierre, à Rouen, lot 111 in Swann Galleries’ March 6, 2014 auction of 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings, is an etching and drypoint  from 1887. There are approximately 32 lifetime impressions (and no posthumous impressions) of this print in its two states. And, it has only appeared at auction eight times in the past 25 years.