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Lucien Pissarro (1863-1944), son of the famous Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro, lived at Hill Cottage, Hewood for the last years of his life.  Born 1863, he came to London to escape political upheaval in France.  With  his wife, Esther, he  established the Eragny Press in 1892 which became a leading publishing house.  Lucien designed his own typeface while his wife did much of the engraving.   The press closed in 1914 and Lucien returned to landscape painting, becoming a leading member of the Camden Group of painters.   The Pissarros frequently rented properties in the Dorset/Devon borders between the wars, including  Fishpond, Chideock and Hawkchurch, where Lucien would paint the surrounding area.  It was therefore natural that they would consider a  move to Dorset at the outbreak of war.  


Initially they rented a cottage at Fishponds, Coney’s Cottage, but it was in very poor condition.   Local gossip has it that Lucien’s wife Esther, hired a car from Tommy Parrett who lived at 1 Hewood (now known as Molly’s Cottage).  Hearing of the Pissarro’s need for alternative accommodation, Mr Parrett was able to tell them of a cottage at Hewood which was available for rent from the lady owner, Miss Langdon.  Lucien and Madame Pissarro moved in and were later joined by their daughter Orovida (also a capable engraver) to assist her mother with the household and the care of Pissarro who was increasingly frail. It is said that their relations with the landlady became strained because the Pissarro’s had the temerity to take down some of her nice prints and put works by Camille Pissaro in their place.  

  The view of the hamlet was obscured by hedges, so Lucien  would sit outside painting, although by this time he was nearly blind, and had to be wheeled out in his chair.   He painted the lane which ran outside the gate – a painting which now belongs to Rochdale Art Gallery, `Muddy Lane, Hewood’.  The thatched cottages on the right, now Steppes and Hewood Cottage,  appear in another painting `Phippens Cottage’, which was sold in the last decade.  Another view of Hewood `Above the Valley, Heywood’ (1941) is in the Government Art Collection and during the years of the Thatcher administration hung  in the office of the Chief secretary to the Treasury, William Waldegrave.  Lucien’s  last painting, completed in 1943, was of the farm at the bottom of the Hamlet, Lower Hewood Farm - `The Yellow Farm’ (now green!).    This painting is in a private collection.

  Lucien Pissarro died at Hewood in July 1944, just after D-day. Shortly afterwards Esther relinquished the tenancy and returned to their house in Chiswick.   He was remembered by the locals as the old man with the long white beard .

For more information see Wessex Journal, March 1997, “Life with Aunt Pester and Old Mr Bazaro” by Sara Hudston.

With acknowledgements to David E Langford `in the footsteps of Lucien Pissarro’ Dorset Magazine June 1997, `Lucien Pissarro’  W.S.Meadmore, Constable 1962


Diana Bradley who also lived at Hewood until recently recalls:

‘When I first came to Hewood in 1960, there were a number of people here then who remembered the family well, though none are left now. Mrs Kitty House, neé Beer, who died a year or two ago in her nineties, worked as housemaid for the family. Mrs Pissarro drove a car when they first came, for which they rented a garage across the road. The locals took good care to keep out of the way if they met her on the road. Lucien died in July 1944. The local layer-out told me he made a striking sight in his coffin with his long white beard. He was cremated without a religious service. Esther and Orovida continued to live in the cottage until the end of the war. After the war Esther spent her time sorting and cataloguing his works until her death in 1951. Most of Pissarro's work  [and correspondence] was presented to the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. Unfortunately there are no traces of his work left in the cottage. Orovida was a considerable artist in her own right specializing in prints, often of an Eastern flavour and mainly of cats, including the large ones such as lions, tigers etc. She died in London in 1968 and most of her work is also in the Ashmolean [together with a wonderful portrait by Carel Weight]. When I was living in Osterley, Middlesex, I met Sebastian Brown, whose father, James Brown, an amateur painter, became a close friend of the Pissarro family. He would tell of a holiday that the two families and that of J BV Manson spent together in Rye before World War I.’

First published in the TVT newsletter in Summer 2000. Reproduced with kind permission of Mrs J Down.

Donald Hutchings lived in Hewood during the war and has vivid memories of Mr and Mrs Pissarro:

                              ‘When she hit the back wall she knew she was in.’

History will not forgive me if I fail to mention Hewood's most notable resident who came to the safety of Dorset with his family to escape the bombing in London. He was the world renowned artist Lucien Pissarro. His daughter Orovida was also renowned as a water colour artist and his wife did woodcuts for the capital letters at the beginning of old type documents. I do not know how old he was. I think he must have been in his seventies, but he was out on what is known as the Common at Hewood, no matter what the weather was like, nearly every day painting views of what must be one of the most beautiful areas of the world. If you doubt this you should see it by sitting on the stile alongside the wall of Hill Cottage. Failing that, try standing at the crossroads at Hedgestock. To my knowledge he could speak no English. His wife was a lovely person who managed everything, including terrorising the whole area with her driving. They had, I think it was, an old Wolseley from the late twenties or the very early thirties. It was Cream and Brown with yellow six spoked pressed steel wheels. The good lady was quite diminutive and even sitting on cushions could barely see over the steering wheel. She quite often returned with earth and flowers from the hedgerow on the running boards. Fortunately I don't think she ever got the car above second gear so you could hear her coming in time to seek the safety of a gate, or climb up into the hedge.

My uncle, Sam Perrott, with whom my brother and I stayed during our time of evacuation early in the war, had a wooden garage in a field he owned at the back of his house. He rented it to Mrs. Pissaro and we regularly had to renail the back of the garage on as she would misjudge her distance. When she hit the back wall she knew she was in.

My uncle ran a milk collection business and was quite a character in his own right.

Lucien Pissaro died at Hill Cottage, Hewood. I was not there at the time but I understand at his funeral access through the farmyard of Hewood Farm was denied by chaining the gate. As I understand it was to do with some ancient law that states wherever a body was given path it became a public right of way. It must have made it very difficult to get the coffin to the road as the ground there was very steep and rough and you also had quite a wide ditch to get over. As I say, I was not there at the time so you would have to get confirmation to prove it fact.

I used to cut the grass on their three lawns for the princely sum of sixpence (today's equivalent is two and a halfpence.) I was 12 years old.

Many thanks Donald for this wonderful account. You can read Donald’s other memoirs here:

Memories of Holditch School

Wartime Memories


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