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Painter Camille Pissarro, a pioneer of Impressionism, was born on St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, on this date in 1830. His father was a Sephardic Jew, his mother a Dominican Creole; together they operated a dry goods store. At age 12 he was sent to a boarding school in Paris, where he discovered his artistic talents. In 1874 Pissarro and Claude Monet began organizing independent exhibitions in Paris that launched the Impressionist movement; Pissarro appeared in all eight of these group shows (through 1886). Politically, Pissarro was an anarchist and utopianist; artistically, he included laborers, peasants and domestic workers in his landscapes, particularly during his mature years, when he belatedly gained recognition. According to Jewish Museum curators Karen Levitov and Richard Shiff, “Pissarro’s painting process was closely tied to his leftist leanings, which were embodied in the radicalism of the Impressionist technique. His anarchism and painting technique became even more radical in the mid-1880s when he became associated with the Neo-Impressionists – Georges Seurat and Paul Signac – and their pointillist style.”
“God takes care of imbeciles, little children, and artists.” —Camille Pissarro
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.