THE recent archive images of the Minories were a timely reminder of the connection it had with a world famous family of artists.

Colchester Historian Neil Brinded explains the family were the descendants of French impressionist painter Camille Pissarro and while many may know this, they might not know exactly how the connection came about.

He explains the blue plaque on the outside-wall commemorating the building as the home and surgery of Dr Ruth Bensusan-Butt is a strong clue.

She was the town’s first female doctor and was the sister of Esther Bensusan.

And Esther was married to artist Lucien Pissarro, adds Neil.

“Lucien was the eldest son of Camille Pissarro, regarded by many as the founder of Impressionism, and inspiration not only to many other great Impressionists, such as Monet but also to the major Post-Impressionists, Seurat, Cézanne, van Gogh and Gauguin. “He worked mostly in France and was the only artist to show at all eight Impressionist exhibitions.

“In 1870-71 he brought his family, including Lucien, to live in Norwood, Surrey to escape the Franco-Prussian War. During his stay, he produced a number of paintings of local scenes.”

Camille returned to France at the end of the Franco-Prussian War coming back several times in the 1890s when Lucien had married Esther.

Their only child, Orovida Camille Pissarro, was born in 1893 in Epping and also went on to become an artist.

Neil explains Lucien, who became a British citizen in 1916, regularly visited his sister-in-law, Ruth Bensusan-Butt, and her husband at the Minories in Colchester and often painted while he was there.

One of his paintings is the 1935 painting of the garden called the Acacia tree at the Minories, Colchester. “Lucien is reported as remarking how much he liked the lawn at the Minories when it was scorched with the sun, as it reminded him of a lion skin,” says Neil.

Lucien also became mentor to Ruth’s son, John, who lived at the Minories from 1915 to 1958 – the year in which it became the Minories Museum and Art Gallery.

John, also an artist, and Lucien painted together at the Minories and other locations.

And, reveals Neil, there is also another branch of the Pissarro family which is still connected to the Colchester area.

Great Nephew of Camille, Anthony Pissarro, is remembered among the Colchester Royal Grammar School’s pupils who sadly died in the Second world War.

Tony’s father was Tommy Pissarro, the son of Camille’s third child, Georges Henri.

Tony won a full scholarship to the school, where he was more sporty than artistic.

His younger brother, Richard Pissarro, lived in Great Horkesley until his death in 2007, and his descendants continue the family line from the great artists of the Pissarro family – Lucien, Orovida, Georges Henri and, especially, Camille.