Georges Manzana PissarroI've always wished for a son or daughter with some degree of art talent whom I could tutor and guide into a promising art career. When my son was about ten I made the effort. It wasn't going to happen, though. He'd rather fish. I didn't push it. We both had better things to do with our time. And I don't blame him either. I've taught enough other kids his age and older to recognise a genuine talent and interest, as well as a lost cause. That's why I've recently come to envy Camille Pissarro. He had seven children (okay, that part I don't envy) and he taught five of them to become artists. What a challenge that must have been, and what a sense of satisfaction. Not long ago I wrote about his eldest son, Lucien. His third-born was named Georges-Henri Pissarro, and like his older brother (eight years older) Georges seemed to take to art as naturally a bird to the air.
Georges-Henri was born in 1871 in Louveciennes, just after his father brought his family home from England following the Franco-Prussian War. Almost from the beginning, it would seem, Georges and his brother were raised with brushes in their thin little hands and no doubt paint on their clothes. Camille Pissarro was Georges' only teacher and influence even into adulthood, though there was no shortage of other artists who came to visit, giants like Monet, CÚzanne, Renoir, and Gauguin. The elder Pissarro took his sons with him wherever he went, especially as he became affluent enough to travel abroad during the period 1889 to 1898. The boys saw a lot of art and a lot of different kinds of art. In Georges' case, even more than his older brother's, it would seem that art was in his blood. Even two of his three wives were artists of some reputation. Georges made his first foray into the art world during the last decade of the century, painting the Impressionism he grown up with, known all his life, and learned to love. Early on, he was almost a carbon copy of his father.
Strangely, though, perhaps out of a sense of modesty, or perhaps not realising the impact his name had upon the art world, Camille Pissarro urged his son to eschew the family name in signing his work. He thought it would hold him back. Georges chose that of his maternal grandmother, Manzana, which he used exclusively until well after his father's death in 1903. It was not until the "Salon d'Automne de 1906" that Georges entered work signed, "Manzana Pissarro." He entered eight paintings, plus eight drawings and engravings. It was at this show that he began to exhibit an independent, decorative tendency in his work, veering away from his father's Impressionism toward an oriental style then quite popular in Paris.
Later, he began painting animals, never embracing the more "modern" styles marking the cutting edge of art during the first decades of the twentieth century. In England, at the studio of Charles R. Ashbee, a pupil of William Morris, Manzana Pissarro learned the Art Nouveau style, merging the best of the animalist and orientalist tendencies of his past work. Later, his work became still more exotic as he delved into Arabic and fantasy subject matter. Along the same line, he also moved into painting and designing decorative objects - chests, sofas, screens, chairs, glassware, and ceramics - investing them with the Art Nouveau style, yet always with the shadings of his father's influence as well. Late in his life, Georges Manzana Pissarro ended his career of nearly seventy years much as he'd started it, once more taking up Impressionism, his name lending an element of authority to the resurgence in popularity of his father's style of painting. He died in 1961 at the age of 90, by that time, just one of a half-dozen painting Pissarros adding lustre to the name.
Contributed by Lane, Jim
9 March 2001