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Orovida Pissarro, Lebeide with Sulin

Lebeide with Sulin, 1943

Orovida Pissarro (1893 - 1968)

RA Collection: Art

Orovida Pissarro – known simply as Orovida in her capacity as a professional artist – was a member of the illustrious Pissarro family of Impressionist painters. Her father Lucien Pissarro had taught her to paint, encouraging an impressionistic style from an early age – he himself had been taught by his own father, Orovida’s grandfather, Camille Pissarro.

Despite pressure to continue the family tradition, in the 1920s Orovida distanced herself from the Impressionist style of her father and grandfather and established a more naïve approach to painting, greatly influenced by Chinese, Japanese, Persian and Indian art. This painting characteristically shows Orovida’s preference for oriental subject matter, but the sitter was likely a friend in costume or an imagined figure as Orovida never visited the Far East.

The central role of the lithe cat, fixating its intense red eyes on the viewer, is also reflective of Orovida’s affection for feline subjects. She often painted cats of all varieties – domestic, wild and exotic. Her love of cats became an obsession towards the end of her life, when cats were the primary focus of her paintings.

The muted tonal range of this painting is due to the influence of her father; Lucien encouraged his daughter to use a very limited palette during her artistic education, focussing on blue hues in the impressionist tradition. The gentle colours give the work a reflective, almost stuporific atmosphere. The sitter appears in a reverie while the gaze of the cat cuts through any illusion of detachment from the viewer.

This painting is made using oil paints, but Orovida preferred to use egg tempera, watercolour or gouache. These gave her works a flatter appearance, building blocks of uninterrupted colour – more in line with her Asian-art influences. The use of oils here however was due to the food rationing during World War Two, when this was painted. Orovida could not get hold of the necessary component parts for egg tempera – that she usually mixed herself – so she was forced to use oil paints during this time.

Object details

Lebeide with Sulin
Orovida Pissarro (1893 - 1968)
Object type
Copyright owner
Oil on paper on cardboard

649 mm x 454 mm x 4 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Bequeathed by Carel Weight RA 1999
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