Dynasties fascinate us. From Game of Thrones with its Lannisters and Targaryons to the Kennedys, we pay attention when families cluster around power, politics and art. Some famous artists seem to hand genius down like many families pass along china and flatware. The Brueghels, the Wyeths, the Pissarros and the Monets all had multiple generations of successful artists. To discover several interesting facts about these impressive families, read on.
Monet and Household: All in the Family
The Monet family household in Giverny resulted in four happy marriages:
- Alice Hoschede became Claude Monet’s wife in 1892. Alice had helped manage the Monet household after Camille, Monet’s first wife, fell ill and passed.
- Alice’s daughter and Monet’s step-daughter Blanche Hoschede married Monet’s son Jean in 1887.
- Two of Monet’s step-daughters married Theodore Butler, an American Impressionist who studied with William Merritt Chase before coming to France. By all accounts, he and his first wife Suzanne were very happy. Unfortunately, after several years of illness, she died, leaving Butler and two children behind.
- A year later, Theodore returned to France from a trip to America to marry Suzanne’s sister Marthe who had helped care for her niece and nephew during Suzanne’s prolonged illness.
The close relationship between the Hoschedes and the Monets began when Ernest Hoschede became Monet’s patron. He commissioned four large wall panel decorations from Monet in 1876 for the Chateau de Rottenmbourg. A year later, when Ernest declared bankruptcy, Monet and his wife Camille invited the Hoschedes and their six children to live with them in Vetheuil. This merger of the Hoschede and Monet households would last for thirty-four years until Alice’s death in 1911.
Monet’s step-daughter, Blanche Hoschede-Monet, began painting at an early age. When she was 16, Blanche became Monet’s assistant and his pupil. She accompanied Monet on his outdoor painting excursions, helping him set up the equipment for his plein air painting, and they often painted side by side. Blanche’s work was shown at the prestigious Salon des Independents in 1876.
Camille, Monet’s first wife, was often a model for Monet. After her death, Monet instead painted the Hoschede girls, and Suzanne was his favorite model. Perhaps Alice was too busy running the large household and overseeing the many building and garden projects at Giverny. After her death, he became quite distraught. Eventually, Alice’s daughter Blanche moved back to Giverny to care for the aging artist. Blanche was also Monet’s daughter-in-law as she married Jean Monet in 1987 before they moved to the nearby village of Rhun. Jean died in 1914. It was after Blanche returned that Monet began his famous water lily series with Blanche acting as his assistant and helping with the installation of the gardens.
The Pissarro Family: Prolific Creators In Multiple Mediums
Camille Pissarro was a founder of the Impressionist movement and the patriarch of the Pissarro painting dynasty. However, he was also highly interested in printmaking. He collaborated on a joint project with Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt in 1879 in which the artists encouraged each other to learn printmaking. Degas ran the prints from Pissarro’s plates for him because Pissarro did not have his own printing press until 1894. A first state of Sous bois a l’hermitage, an aquatint print by Pissarro, was found in Edgar Degas’ studio after his death.
Printmaking is a demanding art form, but one that Pissarro pursued as avidly as he did painting. He said in a letter to his son Lucien, “What a pity there is no demand for my prints. I find this work as interesting as painting.” Still, he passed his love of printmaking on to his children, who continued the tradition. All of the Pissarro family artists have practiced some form of printmaking.
Lucien Pissarro, Camille Pissarro’s eldest son, was a bookmaker as well as a printmaker and a painter. He designed The Brook Type typeface and established the Eragny Press in England. Lucien named his business after the small village in France, where he watched his father create and was surrounded by other artistic greats like Cezanne and Monet. Lucien and his father often worked together both in the studio and while painting en plein air.
Camille Pissarro’s youngest son, Paulemile, studied with Monet after his father died and exhibited with the Salon des Independents in 1905 at the young age of 21. Paulemile is an essential link to later generations of Pissarro family artists as he taught his granddaughter Lelia.
Paulemile Pissarro was close friends with Raoul Dufy. They regularly spent summers together traveling the French countryside and painting next to each other, just as his father Camille had done with Cezanne. Cezanne was a close family friend and was often a visitor to the Pissarro home in Eragny.
Lelia PissarroLelia Pissarro, the great-granddaughter of Camille, was raised by her grandparents, Yvonne and Paulemile Pissarro. She sold her first canvas to New York art dealer Wally Findlay at the age of four. Paulemile extracted a promise from Lelia that she would retain the Pissarro family name, continue to paint, and make art her life. She upheld that promise and, in 1999, became a founder of the Sorteval Press, a group of artists dedicated to developing their skills and techniques in etching and printmaking. Their first exhibition took place at the Mall Gallery in London in December 1999.
Paulemile may have extracted this promise from Lelia because Orovida Pissarro, the daughter of Lucien, dropped the Pissarro name to establish her independence. Orovida liked to paint animals and even had a special pass to the London Zoo that allowed her to make unlimited visits in order to study and sketch animals. To the consternation of her father, she dropped Impressionism and developed her own unique style, which was influenced by Asian art.
H. Claude Pissarro
H. Claude Pissarro, Lelia’s father, is also a prolific painter. He draws inspiration from everyday life and the bustling cities and lush landscapes of his native France to create works infused with modernity, dynamic light and vibrant color. He continues in the artistic tradition of his family that began over 100 years ago with his grandfather, Camille.
Brueghel Paintings: An Extended Family DynastyBruegel’s mother-in-law Mayken Verhulst, a successful miniaturist painter, is the most likely teacher for both Pieter the Younger and Jan the Elder rather than their father as he died when Pieter Brueghel the Younger was four. Miniaturist works were popular among the rising middle class, and Mayken Verhuls was highly accomplished in this demanding art form.
Wyeth Paintings: A World of Mutual Influences
N.C. Wyeth, the family patriarch, was a well-known and highly respected illustrator and painter. In his 40-year career, he created many iconic images and was famous for illustrating the twenty-volume Classics Series for Scribner’s. His images in Treasure Island and other classics were beloved across America by young and old alike. He also created murals for the Missouri State Capitol and the National Episcopal Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
N.C. Wyeth won his first commission for a cover of The Saturday Evening Post magazine when he was only 20 years old. The illustration was of a bucking bronco, and he went West to sketch and study horses firsthand. On the trip, his wallet was stolen, and the young Wyeth worked for the postal service to earn his passage back East.
Despite his burgeoning career, N.C. Wyeth was heavily involved in the upbringing and education of his five children. Andrew Wyeth, his youngest son, was homeschooled from the age of six, with afternoons devoted to art lessons from his father. Art lessons from N.C. Wyeth were a family routine as daughters Henriette and Carolyn were also taught by their father and went on to become successful professional artists themselves.
Henriette WyethHenriette, who began painting at the age of 11, was considered a protegee and entered the Boston Academy of Art at the age of 14. She then attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, where her future brother-in-law, John McCoy, would become an esteemed professor. Henriette would go on to win many awards and paint many portraits, including those of First Lady Pat Nixon and President Lyndon Johnson.
Wyeth Brothers-in-LawAndrew wasn’t the only young man painting in his father’s studio. As he chaffed at his father’s academic exercises, he painted next to his friend John McCoy. John would eventually marry Andrew’s sister Ann. Another brother-in-law, Peter Hurd, introduced the entourage to egg tempera painting. N.C. did not take to the medium, but Andrew became a master of the tempera with works like Christina’s World. Peter and John McCoy continued to use egg tempera as their primary medium for long and successful careers.
In 1939, Andrew Wyeth met his future wife, Betsy James, who would significantly impact his work. After Betsy referred to the bright palette of his early pieces as “corny colors,” Wyeth adopted the palette of subdued earth tones which dominated his work. She also introduced him to Christina Olsen, the subject of his famous painting, Christina’s World. The Olsens’ environment in Maine would fascinate Andrew for the next thirty years. Wyeth created another massive body of work with the Helga Paintings. He gifted three of the best pieces from the series to Betsy, which she prominently displayed in their living room for the rest of her life.