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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on February 1, 2024
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Camille Pissarro was a highly prolific artist, and not just in painting.

Variety of Drawing Mediums

The artist's drawings came in a variety of different mediums including black lead, pen, brown ink and pastel.

The purpose of his drawings varied wildly, from hundreds of study sketches for later paintings, such as his work in Montmatre, to full-scale pastels portraits and landscapes akin to some of the best work from his Impressionist colleague, Monet. Degas for that matter was also a master of pastels.

Thousands of etchings were also produced directly from Pissarro's work, many of which were published in the early 20th century. Some remain for sale today at around a few thousand pounds through the artist's extended family. Etchings themselves have long since been used as a means to broadening an artist's reputation and also providing supplementary income without having to produce more paintings or drawings.

Working on the Move

During this period many artists would travel around with small sketchbooks which enabled them to produce work on the go. Turner's sketchbooks are particularly famous whilst Pissarro tended to concentrate on simple sketches of local people. There are many figurative drawings of local peasants and town folk, often with just a few lines of detail.

Varying Levels of Completeness

In some examples he would put several different portraits together on the same page in order to save space. Whilst these are very much in demand in the present day, it is important to remember that the artist himself never intended these types of work to be considered presentable artworks in their own right. It was the much more detailed pieces, often with a greater variety of colour, that were seen more on a level with his complex paintings.

Drawing would therefore fulfil many different purposes for the artist, from presenting fully complete artworks, to simply arranging different brief sketches together in order to develop a particular idea. Pissarro would have been influenced by his fellow members of the Impressionist movement, to whom drawing was also an important part of their working process.

Of the drawings remaining from his career, the majority could be described as brief study items. There are only a few in which detail rises to a considerable level. He therefore would capture moments outside, and loosely put together a record of their forms, hoping to perhaps evolve this into a painting at a later date. He might also use the sketch as a means to prepare the later painting, with amendments much easier to carry out at this stage.

Specific Works

Examples such as Two Women Carrying Vases on their Heads with Studies of two Women in Profile and Studies of Figures, a Cow in Profile and a Horse Pulling a Cart provide a good summary of much of his study drawing work. With multiple incomplete figures as the artist looked to perfect his figurative skills, prior to starting a more complex scene in oils.

A Hut in a Mountainous Landscape with a Plough and Figures and Bord d'une Rivière then cover some of his landscape drawings. These could be constructed outside without any great planning or setup. At a later date he could then produce an oil painting from these within his own studio.