Jacob Abraham Camille Pissarro (10 July 1830 – 13 November 1903) was a French Impressionist painter.
Camille Pissarro was an enthusiastic advocate of homeopathy. He consulted homeopath Paul Ferdinand Gachet in Auvers sur Oise, and David MacNish in London and Leon Francois Adolphe Simon in Paris. Pissaro also consulted homeopath Georges de Bellio who was also an enthusiastic collector of Camille Pissaro’s paintings. He also consulted Daniel Parenteau, a homeopath and Ophthalmologist.
Pissaro revealed his understanding of homeopathy in a letter to his wife, Julie, in October 1896 where he cautions against catching a cold while taking the homeopathic remedies Mercurius Solubilis or Belladonna.
When Pissarro was young, he enjoyed painting landscapes with peasants in the then rural Île de France. In 1887, blaming traditional physicians for the death of his friend, the artist Edouard Manet, Pissarro sought treatment for an inflammation of the right lacrimal sac from a homeopathic ophthalmologist.
Thus began a process of recurrent swelling, abscesses, probing of the right nasal lacrimal duct, discovery of a bony obstruction in the passages, injections of silver nitrate to close off abnormal passages created by the probing, and constant fear of cellulitis and further scarring. Pissarro was advised to “avoid wind and dust, [and] wash the eye with boric acid immediately” if the eye became inflamed.
aurum, a homeopathic remedy, was prescribed to promote healing of the tissues surrounding the bone. Each time an abscess formed, the eye was bandaged for several days, and Pissarro lived in constant fear that exposure to dust or wind would cause the dacryocystitis to recur….
Pissarro had a special love for homeopathy that started shortly after his father’s death in 1865. His mother, Rachel, became quite ill for several months, and Pissarro sought homeopathic care for her with Paul Ferdinand Gachet.
The results were so fast and so significant that both he and his mother developed a life long devotion to homeopathy and Paul Ferdinand Gachet.
Pissarro even became a lay prescriber of homeopathic medicines himself.
Pissarro was appreciative enough of Dr Gachet that he moved to the lovely town Auvers sur Oise just outside of Paris, where the physician had his practice and studio. Vincent van Gogh and several other leading artists of that time followed them to this quaint French town.
Paul Ferdinand Gachet himself became an enthusiastic engraver, and although his work wasn’t of the same high calibre as his friends, he gained some respect as an artist. Of additional interest is the fact that several of the Impressionists took up etching, working in Paul Ferdinand Gachet’s studio and printing their work with the doctor’s press.
Paul Cezanne produced there an etching of Guillaumin, as well as a number of flower pieces arranged in Delft vases for him by the doctor’s wife. Paul Ferdinand Gachet was the first person to purchase a Cezanne painting.
Pissarro encouraged many people to seek out homeopathic treatment. Pissarro wrote to his friend Octave Mirbeau, a journalist, novelist, and playwright, who was suffering from depression:
‘What a pity that you have no confidence in homeopathic remedies. Seriously, my dear, I believe that you would be able to fight off these prostrations, this discouragement, this lassitude about all things. … What a pity, I tell you because I have such confidence in it’.
On 15 July 1897 while visiting his son Lucien in Bedford Park, London, Pissarro wrote to his Parisian homeopathic doctor, Léon Francois Adolphe Simon, requesting a consultation for Lucien on their return to the French capital:
“Would you be so kind as to write me a line to the Hotel Garnier, 111 rue St Lazare. Dr MacNish, who has been looking after him here is writing to give you details of the illness he has been treating. Naturally I would prefer to see you rather than your locum.”
The letter is almost certainly to Léon Francois Adolphe Simon, the homeopath used by Camille Pissarro in Paris. Lucien had moved to the address in London from which this letter was written on 6 April 1897, where he suffered a second cerebral haemorrhage on about 3 May, following that of about 19 March. Camille came to visit him on 7 May, and took him, with his wife Esther and daughter Orovida, back to Paris to convalesce in mid-July. David MacNish was the homeopathic doctor consulted by Lucien in England.
Jacob Abraham Camille Pissarro was born in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, to Abraham Gabriel Pissarro, a Portuguese Sephardic Jew, and Rachel Manzana Pomié, from the Dominican Republic. Pissarro lived in St. Thomas until age 12, when he went to a boarding school in Paris. He returned to St. Thomas where he drew in his free time.
Pissarro was attracted to political anarchy, an attraction that may have originated during his years in St. Thomas. In 1852, he traveled to Venezuela with the Danish artist Fritz Melbye.
In 1855, Pissarro left for Paris, where he studied at various academic institutions (including the École des Beaux Arts and Académie Suisse) and under a succession of masters, such as Jean Baptiste Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, and Charles François Daubigny. Jean Baptiste Camille Corot is sometimes considered Pissarro’s most important early influence; Pissarro listed himself as Jean Baptiste Camille Corot’s pupil in the catalogues to the 1865 and 1866 Paris Salons.
Pissarro married Julie Vellay, a maid in his mother’s household. Of their eight children, one died at birth and one daughter died aged nine. The surviving children all painted, and Lucien, the oldest son, became a follower of William Morris.
The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 compelled Pissarro to flee his home in Louveciennes in September 1870; he returned in June 1871 to find that the house, and along with it many of his early paintings, had been destroyed by Prussian soldiers.
Initially his family was taken in by a fellow artist in Montfoucault, but by December 1870 they had taken refuge in London and settled at Westow Hill in Upper Norwood (today better known as Crystal Palace, near Sydenham). A Blue Plaque currently marks the site of the house on the building at 77a Westow Hill.
Through the paintings Pissarro completed at this time, we can glimpse back to the days when Sydenham was a small satellite town recently connected to the capital by the arrival of the railway. One of the most appreciated of these paintings is a view of St Bartholomew’s Church at the end of Lawrie Park Avenue, commonly known as The Avenue, Sydenham, in the collection of the London National Gallery. Twelve oil paintings date from his stay in Upper Norwood and are listed and illustrated in the catalogue raisonné prepared jointly by his fifth child Ludovic-Rodolphe Pissarro and Lionello Venturi and published in 1939. These paintings include Norwood Under the Snow, and Lordship Lane Station, views of The Crystal Palace relocated from Hyde Park, Dulwich College, Sydenham Hill, All Saints Church, and a lost painting of St. Stephen’s Church.
Whilst in Upper Norwood, Pissarro was introduced to the art dealer Paul Durand Ruel, who bought two of his ‘London’ paintings. Paul Durand Ruel subsequently became the most important art dealer of the new school of French Impressionism.
In 1890 Pissarro returned to England and painted some ten scenes of central London. He came back again in 1892, painting in Kew Gardens and Kew Green, and also in 1897, when he produced several oils of Bedford Park, Chiswick, and other areas.
Pissarro died in Éragny sur Epte, Paris, on November 13, 1903, and was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
Pissarro complained in a letter to his son Lucien about fellow artist Edouard Manet’s ill health: “Our poor friend Manet is terribly sick. He has been completely poisoned by allopathic medicine.”
In 1982, Sotheby’s auctioned a letter written on 10.7.1892 from Camille Pissarro to his wife Julie “.. expressing the hope that with the aid of homeopathy he will be restored to full health.”