Peregrine flight

Sunday, January 7, 2024


Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) was always one of my favorite impressionist painters. 

He was born in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, to Sephardic parents, and traveled to France to study at the age of eleven. 

He was forced to return to the Caribbean at seventeen and did not make it back to France until he was twenty five.

Pissarro is called the father of impressionism. He taught Cezanne and Gauguin and maintained good relations with Degas and Seurat. 

He drank with Fantin Latour and Renoir at the Cafe Guerbois. He was the only impressionist to show in all eight of the major impressionist exhibitions of his time.

There is a good article on the late painter in a recent edition of the New Yorker by Adam Gopnik, titled Winter Sun

Gopnik reviews the new book on the artist they called Father Abraham, Camille Pissarro; The Audacity of Impressionism by Anka Muhlstein.

One of the highlights of my life was visiting the Fred Jones Museum in Norman, Oklahoma about twenty five years ago. 

My good friend, Oklahoma University President David Boren, invited me to tour the renovating museum with curator Eric Lee and I got to hold a Pissarro in my very own hands. 

It was a thrill I will never forget.

I have held some wonderful canvases in my hands in my life, from Joshua Reynolds to Thiebaud, but this felt like the hope diamond to me, magnificent and otherworldly. Rarefied air that left me breathless. 

As most of you know, I come from an endogamous clan that is fairly tightly bound. We Jews are mostly all fairly closely interrelated if you decide to divine the twisted strings of filial and genetic attachment. I used the search engine GENI tonight to see if Camille and I shared family bonds.

Unsurprisingly, we did.

Through my Grossbard relations, my paternal grandmother's kin, that somehow percolated out to the Danish West Indies, where the impressionist master hailed from.

He joins Von Neumann, Koufax, Mahler and a host of other relatives who all did good.

I am happy for this. The family tree was a bit lacking in the visual arts. My chapeau is off to you, Father Camille.