Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Meeting an artist and her tiger

Some of you will be readers of The Cottage Smallholder, if so you'll know that Fiona has been battling with ill health over the past year and her wonderful blog has become her window on the outside world and a necessary source of income. I got to know Fiona before her energy began to wane, she lives a short drive across the wiggly Suffolk/Cambs border; and as a treat before I faced major surgery, we had a fabulously fun day out at Audley End Estate a couple of summers back.

We've always wanted to go out on another jaunt together; two weeks ago I was pleased that Fiona felt she was well enough for a trip to Willingham Auctions. You can read more about what we got up to on Fiona's blog, but I can now reveal that one of the commission bids I left with the auctioneer was successful.

I'm now the owner of this etching . . .

Handwritten under the picture in pencil it reads:
State II Trial proof No 8. La Pursuite
Orovida 1917

So who was Orovida? I confess I hadn't heard of her, but as soon as I found out who she was I started to get excited . . .

Meet Orovida Camille-Pissarro, the only child of Lucien Pissarro and his English wife Esther, and Grand-daughter of Jacob-Abraham-Camille Pissarro. Yes, that's the French Impressionist artist Camille Pissarro!

Here's Orovida as she saw herself – in a self-portrait painted when she was 24 years old, you can see the portrait in the Pissarro family archive in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Orovida was born in Epping in Essex in 1893 and she was taught to paint in the French Impressionist style by her father Lucien and then in 1913 she became a pupil of Walter Sickert. She looks like a determined woman, doesn't she? Formidable perhaps? She turned her back on her family's heritage and became fascinated by the art of India, Persia and Japan; in her early 20s she dropped her family name and signed her art 'Orovida' and began to produce decorative and illustrative work. Her mother was worried about her daughter becoming artist with all the attached insecurity of income and wanted her to study music instead, but Orovida apparently persuaded her by studying etching which could lead to becoming an illustrator. Even though she was passionate about Eastern art she never travelled to Asia, all her inspiration came from museums and the animals in London Zoo, in particular she loved Mongolian horses and Indian tigers.

So, what a treat! I've stumbled upon one of Orovida's beloved tigers in an etching from 1917 when she was 23 and trying to walk her own path, leaving the weight of a famous father and artist mega-star grand-father behind.

Photograph of Orovida from the Stern Pissarro Gallery, London.

In her later years she returned to oil painting and painted colourful pictures of children and families as well as her beloved horses and cats – big and small. She died in 1968, I wonder what it was like to meet her? I'm very pleased to have met one of her prints.


  1. Wow Celia, how exciting! I love uncovering trails like this. You obviously have a very good eye to spot real talent at the auction rooms - what a great gift.

  2. Oh my goodness - you're really very good at spoitting treasures!

  3. Yes, I think "wow!" covers it.

  4. Celia, thank you for the introduction to two interesting women, Fiona and Orovida.

    Decades apart, each of them (and you, too, of course) find ways to explore originality and creative energy.


  5. Celia,
    This is a fascinating post. Thank you for the introduction to both Fiona and Orovieda. I agree with Frances that they are both interesting people to know. What I love the most is the fact that you bought the etching just because you loved it and not for any other reason. That it turns out to be the work of such a wonderful character is such a bonus isn't it? I think you'll treasure it as much as I believe you treasure Fiona's friendship. Lesley.

  6. lovely etching! so full of movement.

  7. How exciting, I love art, and I love art with history! Enjoy!


  8. What a wonderful find - I love Orovida's self-portrait as well, she's determined-looking, but with a kind softness too.

  9. Ohhhh LOVED the piece as soon as I saw it, but how wonderful to learn about the artist herself - fabulous purchase (quite jealous) x

  10. Goodness, this is such an amazing find Celia. Fascinating stuff

  11. We had a brilliant 'day out'. It was great to sit in the passenger seat for once and just chill.

    I also met Celia's mother. As fascinating and full of élan like Celia.

    No one could fault Celia's eye for art. The print that she bought is superb and a good investment. I on the other hand bought an old saddle backed chair that just felt like home when I tested it out for size.

    I reckon that both of us are delighted with our buys :)


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