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Camille Pissarro: Landscape, St. Thomas, 1856
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Photo: Katherine Wetzel
Pissarro: A Meeting on St. Thomas
CHARLOTTENLUND, DENMARK • Ordrupgaard • 10 March - 2 July 2017
Is there a link between Danish Golden Age painting and French Impressionism? On the occasion of the centenary of the sale of the Danish West Indies, Ordrupgaard is highlighting the encounter between the Danish Golden Age painter Fritz Melbye and the later ‘father’ of French Impressionism, Camille Pissarro, on the island of St. Thomas. The exhibition Pissarro. A Meeting on St. Thomas presents new historical material that will radically challenge most people’s ideas of the birth of Impressionism.
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) is known as one of the most important figures in French Impressionism, but few people know that a Danish Golden Age painter played an important role in the origins of the Impressionist movement. Through the exhibition Pissarro. A meeting on St. Thomas, Ordrupgaard tells the story of Pissarro’s early years, and of how the Danish Golden Age painter Fritz Melbye (1826-1869) came to play a crucial role in Pissarro’s life and art.
Camille Pissarro grew up as a Danish citizen on the island of St. Thomas in the Danish West Indies and around the year 1850, Fritz Melbye arrived in St. Thomas. Melbye was a marine and landscape painter, and was visiting the New World to seek inspiration. The two young artists became friends, and soon began working together. They left the Danish West Indies together in 1853 and travelled to Caracas in Venezuela, where they established a joint studio.
In Caracas the two artists worked closely together, and the four-year older Melbye exerted a great influence on Pissarro, who was then just 22. Their collaboration provided a counterpoint to the more traditional ‘teacher-pupil’ relationships of the day, as Melbye was more of a mentor than a master to Pissarro. The partnership between Pissarro and Melbye in the Danish West Indies and Venezuela lasted for two years. Afterwards Pissarro set off for Europe and the adventurous Melbye remained in the New World. They subsequently lost contact but Pissarro brought the experiences gained from his ‘Danish’ apprenticeship with him to Europe.
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