The red roofs | Camille Pissarro | 1877
The unknown impressionist.
Jacob-Abraham-Camille Pissarro was the son of a Portuguese father and a Dominican mother, but he was born in the Danish West Indias (today, Virgin Islands). However, he was raised in Paris, so he shared both citizenships during his life: French and Danish. But, just for resuming, we will simply say that he was French.
From all the impressionists, Pissarro is the less known. Generally, we hear about Monet, Manet, Renoir or Cézanne, but we never hear about Pissarro. On one hand, the artist was not an impressionist per se. Despite considering Courbet, a realist, as one of his major influence; Pissarro was the first who started to paint with a technique and a palette typical of an impressionist, and that’s why he is considered the father of the movement.
As Pissarro had maintained himself in the backstage, another fact that isn’t commonly known about him is that he was the mentor of several other renowned artists, including Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin.
In The red roofs we see an impressionist painting, yes. But not as impressionist as one of Monet’s paintings. The landscape depicts the rural community of Pontoise, where the artist lived for some time. The angle he chooses for the composition is somewhat bizarre: the houses are painted behind a framework of trees. This choice obliged Pissarro to work very hard to achieve the expected effect, however, this follows his line of thought: he believed that “Landscapes must be painted according the first unconscious reaction we have over the panorama”, which says, in a way, not to give more importance to one object over another in painting. Despite the title The red roofs may seem to suggest that we have to focus in a particular area of the work, once we look at it, they pass unnoticed, lost in the whole of the landscape.