Ashmolean Museum Oxford

Lucien Pissarro in England: The Eragny Press

by Colin Harrison, Jon Whiteley and Victor Benjamin


The story of Lucien Pissarro, son of the Impressionist painter, Camille Pissarro, and his efforts to make and sell beautifully crafted books from one of the earliest and most inventive private presses.

Lucien Pissarro first came to England at the age of seven when his parents took refuge in London during the Franco-Prussian war. He returned on a number of occasions and finally settled there in 1890. He had tried without much success to make a career in France as a print-maker and book illustrator and had hopes of making a better livelihood in England. He might well have given up and returned to France but was encouraged to remain by the support of Charles Ricketts and Ricketts's friends at the Vale Press and also by his marriage in 1892 to Esther Bensusan.The story of the Pissarro's efforts to make and sell beautifully crafted books is a tale of constant hardship and threatened insolvency as they struggled, without capital, to produce costly little books which few wanted or could afford.

These books are a product of the English Arts and Crafts movement, as Lucien readily acknowledged, but they are also marked by Lucien's French background and by the influence of Camille who took a close interest in the work of his son and did not always appreciate the whiff of Pre-Raphaelitism which he sometimes detected in the illustrations. An obstinate belief in the value of their work and in the ultimate success of their enterprise kept them going until 1914 when the last of the Eragny books was published. Illness, exhaustion, debt and war combined with many other obstacles to close down one of the earliest and most inventive of the private presses. The remainder of Lucien's long career belongs to the history of British painting.


Book contains: 160 pages.

Dimensions: 16.89 x 1.24 x 24.77cm