Camille Pissarro, a central figure in the Impressionist movement, was born in Saint Thomas (Danish Antilles) in 1830.
He turned to painting after a journey to Venezuela with the Danish painter Fritz Melbye, and left for France immediately. He concentrated on learning his trade as a painter alongside Anton Melbye (Fritz Melbye’s brother), Daubigny, and Corot. He met Monet in 1859, and Cézanne and Guillaumin in 1861, before joining Renoir, Sisley and the other members of the future Impressionist group a little later. He played an essential part in setting up the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874, and in all those that followed.
Pissarro was not only a painter. Along with Degas, he was also one of the group’s great draftsmen. As such, he was very attentive to the composition of many of his pictures, without losing the spontaneity of painting in the open air. His style changed following his association with Cézanne between 1860 and 1880, with Monet around 1870, and with Signac and Seurat during his pointillist period between 1885 and 1890.
Unlike Renoir or Monet, Pissarro never showed any interest in the south of France or the Mediterranean. Paradoxically, although born in the tropics, he was fundamentally a painter of the north, as demonstrated by his pictures of London. Within landscapes, he reiterated very varied subjects and approaches: panoramic views, roads and railroads, figures in the countryside, and townscapes.
His pointillist phase ended with a series of eleven canvases painted at Kew during his second visit to England. Like the previous work, his Kew Green dated 1892 was painted from his balcony at 1 Gloucester Terrace, but looking north. The green space in the foreground is Kew Green. The row of trees on the left borders Kew Road, which leads to Kew Bridge. The River Thames flows behind the houses. The big water tower in the background on the left is now part of the London Museum of Water & Steam on the opposite side of the river. Although it is still a neo-impressionist work, this painting heralds the painter’s views of Paris in which the people are reduced to small silhouettes, as they are here.