Orovida Camille Pissarro


Orovida, the only child of Lucien and Esther Pissarro, was the first woman in the Pissarro family to become a professional artist and the first Pissarro of her generation to take up painting. Born in Epping, England, in 1893, she lived and worked predominantly in London, where she was a prominent member of several British arts clubs and societies.

She first learned to paint in the Impressionist manner from her father and, after a brief period of formal study with Walter Sickert in 1913, she renounced formal art schooling and throughout her career always remained outside mainstream British art movements. Much to Lucien's disappointment, she soon turned away from naturalistic painting and developed an unusual style that combined elements of Japanese, Chinese, Persian and Indian art. Her rejection of Impressionism, which for the Pissarro family was a way of life, and her simultaneous decision to drop her famous last name and use simply Orovida as a nom de peintre, reflected a desire for independence from the family legacy, of which she nevertheless remained proud.

Orovida's most distinctive works are her paintings of the 1920’s and 30’s in gouache (she called her mixture bodycolour) and tempera, applied in thin, delicate washes to silk, linen, paper or gold leaf, and embellished with brocade borders. These elegant and richly decorative works generally depict non-western subjects; for example Mongolian horse-riders, African dancers, and Persian princes, often engaged in culture-specific activities such as dancing or hunting rituals.

The second half of Orovida's painting career is marked by a dramatic change in both style and subject matter. In the mid-1940’s she began to embrace contemporary subjects from everyday life, and returned to a more naturalistic style. Her new style was more suited to oils and she thus returned to that media.

Throughout her life, she was aware of the mixed blessing of having famous artists in the family; not only a grandfather and father, but four uncles as well, and towards the end of her life she was instrumental in developing the Pissarro family archive that her mother had established at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.