Orovida PissarroWhen two generations are involved in the same artform, we usually find one of two opposite scenarios. That is, either the second generation follows closely the first, or rebelliously rejects the parent's style outright. We see examples of this in the Pissarro family. Lucien Pissarro, the eldest son of French Impressionist Camille Pissarro, warmly embraced his father's Impressionist work and followed closely in his footsteps. On the other hand, we have Lucien's only child, a daughter, Orovida Camille Pissarro, born in 1893. Even though during her impressionable (no pun intended) teen years she studied oil painting exclusively with her father - as he had with his father - to Lucien's disappointment, when in her 20s, his daughter not only rejected the family painting style, but even the family name. The rest of her life she was known simply as Orovida.
Orovida was not the first Pissarro to strike out on her own in this manner. Her uncle Georges used the name Manzana (his grandmother's maiden name) to sign his work. Orovida was an independent spirit, though proud of the family's art legacy. She was the first of the family's second generation to become an artist. One might even argue she was the only painter of the second generation. She was 43 when her cousin, H. Claude Pissarro (who also became a painter) was born in 1935. He was the son of Paulemile Pissarro, the youngest of the first generation. In Orovida's rejection of Impressionism, and everything "Pissarro," was also a more profound rejection of Western Art. She saw it as competing with photography while Eastern art ran a much more independent course, far more to her own liking and personality.
However, there had always been an element of Eastern art running through the Pissarro family. Orovida's grandfather had also been fascinated with it, particularly Japanese prints. But Orovida preferred Mongolian horsemen, African dancers, Persian princes, zoo animals, and art from India. She studied with the Japanese painter, Tatuo Takayama, and was also influenced by her Uncle Manzana, who also had a taste for Eastern art. And, although she liked to observe wild animals in their natural habitat (if you could call the animal habitat of London Zoo in the early 1900s, natural), she preferred to render them from memory using delicate strokes of gouache or egg tempera on linen, silk, paper, and gold leaf. After 1914, she also took up the family art medium of etching as taught her by her uncle, Paulemile (only nine years older than she) in her grandfather's old studio at Eragny. In many ways, she was much more like her grandfather than her father where printmaking was concerned. Many of her works during this time are also reminiscent of those of her Uncle Felix.
After the death of her father in 1944 until her own death in 1968, Orovida once more took up oil painting. Perhaps it was the fact that she was now free of her father's famous shadow, or simply a shortage of eggs in England during the war to serve as her painting medium. In any case, though not Impressionist in style or content, the old Pissarro family influence dating back more than fifty years in all its various manifestations can be seen in her later work. In it, she blends her own leanings toward Eastern art subject matter with the heavier, more substantial, stylistic look of Western art. The look and feeling might be compared to dry fresco. Her work from this period, despite her failing eyesight, includes portraits of friends and family members, royalty, and cats - lots of cats. From tigers to tabbies, Siamese to Sudanese, all her life, they were her favourite subject matter. She once proclaimed that all else she painted, the people, places, and things of Eastern art, were just an effort to make her tigers feel comfortable.
Contributed by Lane, Jim
7 April 2001