Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)

Félix Pissarro lisant

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
Félix Pissarro lisant
signed and dated 'C. Pissarro. 93.' (upper right)
oil on canvas
18 x 15 in. (46.2 x 38.1 cm.)
Painted in 1893
Lucien Pissarro, London (son of the artist).
Edwin C. Vogel, New York.
Sam Salz, Inc., New York (acquired from the above, January 1952).
Acquired from the above by the late owners, December 1952.
L.R. Pissarro and L. Venturi, Camille Pissarro, son art—son oeuvre, Paris, 1939, vol. I, p. 197, no. 828 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 169).
M. Potter et al., The David and Peggy Rockefeller Collection: European Works of Art, New York, 1984, vol. I, p. 129, no. 33 (illustrated).
J. Pissarro, Camille Pissarro, New York, 1993, p. 283 (illustrated, p. 287, fig. 346).
J. Pissarro and C. Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro, Catalogue critique des peintures, Paris, 2005, vol. III, p. 643, no. 988 (illustrated in color).
Williamstown, Massachusetts, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Pissarro's People, June-October 2011, p. 304 (illustrated in color, p. 110, fig. 69).
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Lot Essay

This intimate, freely brushed portrait depicts Félix Pissarro, the third of the artist’s five sons, as a thoughtful and debonair young man of eighteen. The vividly patterned décor of the room, which anticipates the Nabi interiors of Édouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard, is not that of the Pissarro family’s rather spartan home at Éragny. Instead, it probably represents the suite at the Hôtel Garnier in Paris that the artist rented from February to May 1893, on the occasion of his second solo exhibition at Durand-Ruel. Félix came to stay there at intervals, attending the Impressionists’ Thursday dinner with his father and admiring an exhibition of Japanese prints. Here, he is captured at a quiet moment, legs casually crossed, absorbed in a small written tract—perhaps one of Peter Kropotkin or Élisée Reclus’s new anarchist publications. “This painting records a father’s love and a son’s maturity,” Richard Brettell has written, “as Félix is well dressed, beautifully groomed, and apparently engrossed in his small, red-covered book” (exh. cat., op. cit., 2011, p. 111).
Unlike many of his Impressionist colleagues, who shunned traditional marital life, Pissarro was a quintessential family man and doted on his children—eight in all, six of whom survived to adulthood. He taught them to draw and paint, fostered their artistic ambitions, and nurtured their moral and intellectual development, encouraging them to question the social and political realities of the French Third Republic. All five of his sons took up art as a profession, without the struggles for self-definition that Pissarro himself had experienced in his youth. “He became the kind of father he never had,” Brettell has written, “less a restraining force on the lives of his children than an anxiously patient guide to life” (ibid., p. 117).
Félix Pissarro, known affectionately as Titi within the family, was born at Pontoise on 24 July 1874. Free-spirited and mischievous in his youth, with a talent for drawing that was evident early on, he often absconded from school to roam the local fields, studying and sketching animals. Pissarro made two paintings of Félix as a child of seven or eight, his long hair non-conformist at the time for a school-aged boy (Pissarro and Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, nos. 663 and 676; Tate Gallery, London and Fondation Bemberg, Toulouse). In the fall of 1893, at age nineteen, Félix moved to London to join his two older brothers, Lucien and Georges. Through mutual criticism and encouragement, the three contributed to each other’s rapid artistic progress. Félix first showed his work publicly at the Grafton Gallery in November 1893; he exhibited alongside his father in Brussels in 1895 and the same year at the opening of Samuel Bing’s pioneering Maison de l’Art Nouveau in Paris.
In 1897, Félix took ill with tuberculosis; he died on November 25th, at age twenty-three. “I have just heard some very sad news,” Octave Mirbeau wrote in Le Journal. “One of Camille Pissarro’s five sons, Félix Pissarro, has died. He was a very young man, almost a child, with a solemn, pretty face and deep-set eyes, who gave everyone hope that he would one day be a great artist. More than a hope, a certainty! I have seldom met anyone as gifted as him. His hand was as limber and adroit as his mind and, under an appearance of silence, was sharp and enthusiastic. My confidence in Félix Pissarro’s future was extreme. And now there is nothing left of all those pretty dreams that the poor child inspired in those who knew him!” (quoted in op. cit., 2009, p. 443).
Pissarro never exhibited or sold the present painting, retaining it for himself as a deeply personal commemoration of his beloved son. David and Peggy Rockefeller acquired the canvas in 1952.

“The very free style of this painting is quite different from many of Pissarro’s works—certainly from the others that we have—but it is a work that we have enjoyed living with a great deal. It is a very loving picture by a father of his son.” —David Rockefeller

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