Lelia PissarroWe all have the dream of someday being "collectible." Actually, some of us may even have obtained some degree of collectibility already, while for others, it may be just around the corner...or around several corners. Now imagine, if you will, selling your first canvas - becoming a collectible artist - at the tender age of four. That's right; in 1967, Lelia Pissarro sold her first painting to Wally Findlay, a New York art dealer, when she was just four years old. Naturally, it helps when your father is French artist H. Claude Pissarro, your mother is Katia Pissarro (an art dealer herself), your grandfather is Paulemile Pissarro, and your great grandfather is the famous French Impressionist, Camille Pissarro. Of course, with such an art pedigree, it also places you under quite a burden to uphold the family name.
Lelia Pissarro was born in Paris on July 27, 1963. Her ties to the past glories of her painting family came almost from birth. She was raised until age 11 by her grandparents, Paulemile and "Marnie Cherie" Pissarro. In his waning years, her grandfather took great delight in teaching her Impressionism, just as he'd taught her father. From the age of four, he taught her to paint, and so grounded her in figurative art, that even after his death in 1972 (she remained to help care for her grandmother until 1974), and then after years of schooling and indoctrination in conceptual art, she was unable to slip from its grip. Once she moved back with her jet-set parents, who had homes in both France and California, her art instruction centred upon her father's work. Her mother saw to it that she exhibited at the "Salon de la Jeune Peinture" where she was the youngest exhibitor. At the age of fifteen, she participated in an exhibit at the Luxembourg Museum in Paris. A year later, she passed the entrance exams to enrol in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Tours. It was there that she was exposed to the then prevailing emphasis on conceptual art. But like her father, no amount of avant-garde influence could shake her family background in Impressionism.
After graduation, Lelia once more returned to the "family style" while teaching at the Moria School and studying art restoration at the Louvre with Madame De Pangalleria. By the late 1980s, as conceptual art began to wane, Lelia suddenly found herself and her work in the forefront of resurgence in figurative art. She had solo exhibits at the Galerie du Marais, and in other shows in Lyon, Mulhouse, and Rennes. An exhibit in London not only gained her a wide acceptance among British collectors but also a husband--art dealer David Stern (whose family's art galleries now have an exclusive handle on all Pissarro family originals). Today, her work can be found in galleries in New York, Boston, Washington, DC, Dallas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, as well as around the world in countries such as Japan, South Africa, France, Switzerland, and Israel. Most recently, this fourth generation Pissarro has played an active role in a travelling series of exhibitions entitled, "Pissarro - The 4 Generations." And this is one Pissarro artist you won't find eschewing the family name (as some of her relatives did). Her grandfather, on his death bed, made her promise not to.
Contributed by Lane, Jim
22 April 2001