Armand Guillaumin was born in Paris in February 1841 to a working-class family recently emigrated from Moulins in Bourbonnais, where he spent much of his childhood. He began working at the age of 15 in his uncle's store, while attending evening drawing lessons. He returned to Paris at the age of 16 and in 1860 he gained employment working on the Paris-Orleans railway, continuing to paint in his spare time.
Guillaumin entered the Académie Suisse in 1861 where he met Cézanne and Pissarro, with whom he was to remain friends for the rest of his life. During the early part of the 1870s, Guillaumin and Pissarro worked alongside each other in Pontoise, a rural farming village mostly untouched by industrialisation. There they shared a love for landscapes which they both depicted using a carefully constructed pictorial composition. It was during this time spent with Pissarro that Guillaumin developed his art of landscape painting to a great extent, incorporating perspectives opened up by winding paths, as well as introducing into some of his works elements uncommon in traditional landscape painting: smoking chimney stacks or small puffs of smoke from steam-trains that were evidence of the rapidly changing state of the French countryside. Guillaumin, Pissarro and Cézanne all regularly visited Paul Gachet in Auvers, a doctor practicing medicine in Paris, and it was there that Cézanne completed a portrait-etching of Guillaumin. Cézanne also made a copy of a painting by Guillaumin which depicted the Seine at Bercy (1876-78; Kunsthalle, Hamburg).
Guillaumin formed part of the important first group exhibition of the Impressionists in 1874 and continued to exhibit in most of the Impressionist group exhibitions which followed, as well as being displayed at the Salon des Refusés. In 1880, Zola commented in his article, 'Naturalism at the Salon', that:
"The true revolutionaries of the form appear with Mr. Édouard Manet, with the Impressionists, Mr Claude Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Guillaumin, and others too. These painters intend to leave workshops in which painters shut themselves up since so many centuries, to go outdoor to paint in open air, simple fact the consequences of which are considerable. In plein-air, light is not unique any more, and consequently multiple effects diversify and transform radically the aspects of things and human beings. This study of light effects...is what one called more or less properly Impressionism, because a painting consequently becomes an impression of one moment felt in front of nature. Mr Pissarro, Sisley, Guillaumin went in the footsteps of Mr. Claude Monet...and they endeavoured painting pieces of nature around Paris under real sunlight, without giving up in front of the most unforeseen effects of colouring."
Indeed, Guillaumin's paintings were marked by a passion for colour so much so that, towards the end of his life, brought him close to the Fauves. This is evident in a work such as Coucher du soleil dans la Creuse, c.1898.
He was taken up by the dealer Auguste Portier, who had began his career with Durand-Ruel, and he was assured of financial stability when he won a large prize in the Loterie Nationale in 1891. He became friendly with Vincent van Gogh, whose brother, Theo sold some of his works.
Works by Guillaumin are held by numerous public galleries and museums worldwide including the Art Institute of Chicago, Hermitage Museum, Russia, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Musée D'Orsay, Paris and Tate Gallery, London, amongst many others.
Guillaumin died in Orly, Val-de-Marne just south of Paris in 1927 at the age of 86. He was the last survivor of the Impressionist group, of whom he was one of the most faithful members.
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