H. Claude PissarroIsaac Pomie was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France on November 9, 1935. If ever there was a child predestined to become an artist, it was he. His father was an artist, as was his grandfather. And today, so is his daughter Lelia. His oldest son, Joachim, is an art historian, and his other son, Lionel, is an art dealer, as is Isaac's wife, Katia as well. And though they all live in France, Isaac Pomie's work can be found in galleries all over Europe and in New York. Though he came from an established art family, his resume includes the Ecole de Musee du Louvre and the highly exclusive Ecole Normale Superieure. At the surprisingly early age of 24, he was commissioned by the White House to paint then President Dwight D. Eisenhower. And if you're wondering why you've never heard of this artist, perhaps it's because Isaac Pomie is an assumed name - the one he signs at the bottom of his canvases. His real name is H. Claude Pissarro.
H. Claude Pissarro is the son of Paulemile Pissarro, the youngest son of Camille Pissarro. With a pedigree like that, it's hard imagining his NOT becoming an artist, though in fact, he has a younger brother and sister neither of whom are involved in the art world. Actually, he also has a whole host of second-generation cousins, only one of whom (Orovida) has become a professional. So, though the art genes run deep in the Pissarro family, (five out of seven of Camille's offspring became artists) they don't necessarily dominate the whole family tree. The trait seems to be thinning in the upper branches. Nonetheless, it seems quite strong in this branch.
Like his father and all his father's brothers before him, H. Claude learned his art at the side of his father, emulating the family's near lock on Impressionism. And though the lower branches of the family tree tended to veer away from Pissarroism toward any number of prevalent styles from the early decades of the twentieth century, the work of H. Claude Pissarro could easily be mistaken for that of either his father or grandfather. He tends to paint Paris (alas, not in plein aire) as well as the French countryside. Today, he has what might be called two modes - Petit Claude and Grand Claude. The only difference is in the size. Petit Claude paintings range in size up to about 24." Grand Claude paintings are measured in feet (most of his recent work).
All this is not to say that the art lineage from grandfather to grandson is arrow straight. It's not. H. Claude had his radical obsessions. During the 1970s, he became involved with the new French Avant-garde, artists such as Vialla, Pineau, and Da Rocha. He worked within a movement known as "Support-Surface," an intellectualised painting fad involving the attachment of artistic significance to all elements of the painter's life, even his or her tools. He went so far as to establish a sort of artists' colony in an old manor house near Paris. It was a time of much experimentation and soul searching. Secretly, at night, he couldn't give up the traditional roots so deeply ingrained from his formative background. For almost twenty years, he painted abstractly during the day, traditionally at night. It was during this time his traditional work began to sell under the name Isaac Pomie.
It was not an existence he could carry on forever. With the coming of postmodernism to the fore, H. Claude Pissarro moved his studio and family (what was left of it by this time) back to his Pissarro roots in Normandy. There the workaholic traits, also prevalent in the family tree, have manifested themselves as he works tirelessly, often turning in 18-hour days, churning out at a frenetic pace the enormous Neo-impressionist canvases that have become the trademark of Isaac Pomie. His style today comes from applying colours straight from the tube with great speed to achieve a rich, thick texture. Once the paint has dried, he often scrapes some (or much) of it away, then adds yet another, more refined layer to create his own remarkable version of modern Impressionism. Of course, no one today is deceived by the name on his canvases. But like so many Pissarros in the past, he, almost by accident, made his own name in art without the Pissarro name.
Contributed by Lane, Jim
15 April 2001