Cezanne and Camille Pissarro: A Friendship in Art

Paul Cezanne, the renowned French painter, was born in Aix-en-Provence in 1839 and died in Paris in 1906 at age 67. During this time, he made many friends who had considerable influence on his life, but one friendship stood out among the rest and had an especially significant impact on his career as an artist. That friend was Camille Pissarro.

Although both were born in France, they came from different backgrounds. They became friends as young adults when they were in their late 20s. Although they were friends throughout their lives, there is not much information about why they started to paint together or how long it lasted.

The Start Of Their Friendship

In 1872, famous painter Cezanne entered an art-studio apprenticeship with a painter named Charles Duval. The studio was located on rue Cortot in Paris’s 9th arrondissement, where fellow apprentices included Pissarro and Renoir. At 17 years old, Cézanne’s passion for painting overtook his interest in engineering. Instead, he spent time observing artists at work at Parisian salons.

Although his apprenticeship was short-lived, Cézanne continued to study painting in his free time. Eventually, he left Paris to work with Eugène Boudin in Normandy. There, he painted out of doors to capture effects of nature that were difficult to replicate on a studio canvas. He stayed until 1874, when he moved back to Paris and worked full-time as an artist.

By that time, Pissarro had already started his artistic career. However, when the two artists met at a Parisian salon in 1873, they grew a strong friendship based on mutual respect and camaraderie. Their relationship spanned decades and continued long after both painters left Paris for countryside locations that served as their preferred subjects.

They Both Move To Paris

One common misconception about post-impressionist artist Paul Cezanne is that he only moved to Paris in his late 50s. However, both Cezanne and his close friend Camille Pissarro were well-established artists when they moved to Paris—Cezanne was 37 and Pissarro was 39—and, as mentioned earlier, they met while studying at art school in Aix-en-Provence.

In 1875, both artists moved to Paris. One year later, they had their first exhibition together at Le Salon—an honor reserved for French artists only. During their time in Paris, both artists fell under the influence of impressionism—though it is debated as to whether or not they were impressionists themselves. Either way, they are considered pivotal in both post-impressionism and modern art.

The Grand Exhibition

Their work has often overshadowed the friendship of Post Impressionist artist Paul Cezanne and painter Camille Pissarro. They both helped each other throughout their lives, which led to each man having a successful career in post-impressionism. Their friendship was unique because they had different personalities but still complemented each other well.

This makes them stand out from other artists who worked together, like Van Gogh and Gauguin. Although they didn’t have any joint exhibitions, their paintings were shown together at one exhibition. It is possible they were friends because they lived close to each other in France and could work regularly. No evidence shows if it was something more than just proximity, though.

How Their Style Differed

Painter Cezanne is best known for his use of colors, brushstrokes, and unconventional style. Though they painted in a very similar fashion, their approach differed significantly. While Cezanne’s paintings are more abstract, Pissarro’s works are more realistic. He focused on everyday life. For example, one of his most remarkable paintings is La Cueillette des Pois (1879), which shows a peasant woman picking peas.

Unlike his contemporaries, he didn’t paint exclusively in a studio. Instead, he observed people working on farms or tending to their animals. The result was that some found his work to be uncertain, while others have said it appears so realistic it could be mistaken for a photograph. He also focused on landscapes, while Cezanne preferred portraits and still life scenes.

Some have said that Pissarro’s work is so realistic it looks like a photograph; however, others have said that his works are very uncertain compared to those of artists who never left their studios. In addition, some have argued that he was an impressionist, while others believe he isn’t associated with any art movement.

Moreover, he worked on farms and tended to animals which greatly influenced his style. He preferred landscapes, while Cezanne preferred portraits and still life scenes. Overall, Paul Cezanne’s drawings appear much more realistic than some of his contemporaries’ pieces. This is because he went out into nature instead of staying in a studio or other enclosed space where there would be no natural light or reference material for him to draw from.

Paul Cezanne Famous Paintings

There’s no doubt that Paul Cezanne is one of, if not the most crucial artist in post-impressionist history. Not only did he help pioneer impressionism, but he was also a prominent figure in modern art history—in part due to his wonderful and exciting life. The best Paul Cezanne drawings are those that feature Provence, which became an essential theme for him after visiting with friends in France. Paul Cezanne’s famous paintings include:

  • The Large Bathers (1888),
  • The Boy in Blue (1886),
  • Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen from Les Lauves (1887) and many more.

Similarities in Their Work

While they were best friends, there are similarities in their work that reveal how each artist was influenced by their counterparts. In 1889, shortly after Paul Cezanne moved to Auvers-Sur-Oise, France, he painted a portrait of his close friend and fellow artist Camille Pissarro. Pissarro’s Self Portrait with Palette is very similar to Cezanne’s work. Both men have short hair and wear beards; both are dressed in black suits; both have brown skin tones, and both men have similar facial features.

By looking at their works, you can tell that both Cezanne and Pissarro were not only good friends but also artistic influences on each other. This can be seen in Cezanne’s 1909 painting An Episode from Faust. Although it was created 17 years after his portrait of Pissarro, there are similarities between these two paintings.


Paintings, like any great work of art, embody a singular vision. But what sets them apart from other kinds of art is that vision can be shared across borders, languages, cultures, and time. In their day, Cézanne and Pissarro changed the way we look at paintings forever; whether or not you’re an artist yourself—whether or not you can draw—the best thing about looking at art has it teaches you to see more clearly.

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