Camille Pissarro, "The Boulevard Montmartre at Night" painting
Camille Pissarro, "The Boulevard Montmartre at Night," 1897, oil on canvas, 21 x 25 1/2 in. Collection The National Gallery Bought, Courtauld Fund, 1925

Plein Air History: Camille Pissarro

As a plein air painter, you are part of one of the largest art movements in history. Learn about those who have helped start this movement in some way, and be inspired to continue your own journey.

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Camille Pissarro (French, 1830–1903)

Inspired by Camille Corot and Gustave Courbet, Camille Pissarro often fled the hustle and bustle of Paris to paint the countryside. Like many of his contemporaries, he preferred to paint in the open air, but while others chose to complete their work in the studio, Pissarro finished his outside.

In later years, the artist suffered from a recurring eye infection that prevented him from working outdoors much of the year. He spent more and more time in the city, often renting apartments or hotel rooms, where he painted views of the urban landscape from the windows.

In February 1897, he took a room in Paris at the Hôtel de Russie on the corner of the Boulevard des Italiens and the Rue Drouot, and produced a series of paintings of the Boulevard Montmartre at different times of the day. This painting is the only night scene of the series, and offers a masterful portrait of the modern city.

Created at a time when easy access to artificial light was still new, Pissarro’s repeated patterns of flickering carriage lights and street lamps provide a magical look at the City of Lights as it defies the encroaching, isolating darkness.

Watch a documentary about the plein air painting movement to learn more about its history and evolution:

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