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A Painting Lesson From Camille Pissarro

Berthe Morisot
Berthe Morisot, the First Lady of Impressionism, was once quoted as saying that "Pissarro was such a good teacher, he could even teach the stones how to paint." In the mid-1890s, Pissarro wrote a letter to a young, aspiring artist named Louis le Bail, containing the following words of wisdom:


Camille Pissarro

"Look for the kind of nature that suits your temperament. The motif should be observed more for the shape and color than far the precise drawing ... Precise drawing is dry and hampers the impression of the whole, it destroys all sensations....

Do not define too closely the outlines; it is the brushwork oft he right value and color which produces the drawing ... Paint the essential character of things; try to convey it by any means whatever, without bothering about technique. When painting, make a choice of subject, see what is lying at the right and left, then work on everything simultaneously. Don't work bit by bit, but paint everything at once by placing tones everywhere, with brushstrokes of the right color and value, while noticing what is alongside. Use small strokes and try to put down your perceptions immediately. The eye should not be fixed on one point, but should take in everything, while observing the reflections the colors produce on their surrounding. Work at the same time on the sky, water, branches, ground, keeping everything going on an equal basis and unceasingly work until you have got it. Cover the canvas at first go, then work at it until you have nothing more to add.

Observe, the aerial perspective, from the foreground to the horizon, the reflections of the sky, of foliage. Don't be afraid of putting on color, refine the work little by little. Don't proceed according to rules and principles, but paint what you observe and feel, Paint generously and unhesitatingly, for it is best not to lose the first impression. Don't be timid in front of nature; one must be bold, at the risk of being and making mistakes. One must always have only one master - nature; she is the one always to be consulted."

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