At the Ashmolean

Peter Campbell

Camille Pissarro, the great Impressionist painter, spent a year in England escaping from the Franco-Prussian War. His eldest son, Lucien, spent more than half his life here. Lucien was the gentlest, sweetest, least practical of men, it seems. His wife, Esther, the tough one, had two goals, the art historian John Rewald wrote: ‘to make friends happy while at the same time running his life by any means she could think of’. Together she and Lucien produced the 30-plus books printed by the Eragny Press, the subject of the current exhibition at the Ashmolean (until 13 March). Lucien Pissarro in England: The Eragny Press 1895-1914 is about as good as such a show could be. It has all the Eragny books, several in multiple copies so that more than one spread can be seen. The books were mainly small, sometimes printed in red and black, though more often reproduced from colour wood engravings; some were traditional tales for children, some were by living writers; the texts were set close, often within flowery borders, the engravings ranged from peasant children in his first book, The Queen of the Fishes, to Italianate girls in long dresses in a Perrault fairytale.

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