Gustave Caillebotte 1848-1894 BACK

Caillebotte was French Impressionist painter and an early collector of Impressionist paintings. Caillebotte studied under Bonnat and submitted his first painting(Floor Scrapers) to the Salon in 1875 and it was promptly rejected. He participated in three of the Impressionist exhibits. His tightly rendered forms and subdued color schemes, however contrasted markedly with the loose brushwork and heightened palettes preferred by his fellow artists. In 1874 after his father's death he inherited a considerable fortune. He utilized his financial resources to become one the Impressionists primary patrons, acquiring an extensive collection. In his later years he spent less time painting and more time sailing and working in his garden. Caillebotte died of pulmonary congestion in 1894. In his will he left his entire collection to the French government providing it hang in the Musee du Luxembourg first. Today forty works from his collection hang in the Musee d'Orsay.

An excerpt from Gustave Caillebotte by Rodolphe Rapetti:
Caillebotte's participation in the second impressionist exhibition proved decisive. Exhibiting for the first time with painters whose cause he had made his own over the preceding two years, the artist presented an ensemble reflective of his ambitions, one that strikes us today as having been composed entirely of major works. Among these, Young Man at His Window combines a depiction of the city, not unlike similar views painted by other impressionists, with the figure of a spectator, a dark silhouette perhaps inspired by interior scenes on which Caillebotte was also working at the time. The focus on brilliant exterior light and its penetration into an apartment, the reflection in the window, the figure shown contre-jour, and the plunging view onto the street indicate an agenda stressing novelty as well as a search for realism.

Five years later the artist adopted the same basic compositional scheme in another painting of similar format, Man on a Balcony, treating it quite differently. Comparison of the two versions of this theme proves instructive. In the later painting Caillebotte clearly set out to avoid the overly anecdotal: the room is all but excluded by the framing, the view onto the street is obscured by foliage, and the pose of the elegant male figure, either ready to go out or on a brief visit, suggests that his gaze onto the boulevard can only be distracted. By contrast, Young Man at His Window implies a much more precise narrative and is pitched on a very different expressive register. Its intimacy differs in character from that of the later image, and its psychological ambiance is typical of the works in which the artist depicted members of his family in interiors. The man's posture (he is the painter's younger brother Rene'), hands in his pockets, apparently staring at a female silhouette in the street, the armchair facing the window, the deserted city, the motionless carriage-all speak of idleness, of time wasted.

The works in which Caillebotte opened his apartment window onto the Parisian cityscape oscillate between these two tendencies: on the one hand, global acceptance of the Impressionist aesthetic in paintings dominated by sensation, a feeling for color, and a certain liveliness of handling (see cat. 61); on the other, introspection, resulting in images of the urban landscape infused with a seemingly meditative or even melancholy temperament.

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Image List

The Floor Scrapers, 1875

Oarsmen, 1877

Paris Street, Rainy Day, 1877

Perissoires, 1878

The Promenade at Argenteuil, 1883

Richard Gallo and His Dog at Petit Gennevilliers, 1884

The Yellow Fields at Gennevilliers, 1884

Factories at Argenteuil, 1888

The Petit Bras of the Seine, 1888

Landscape at Argenteuil, 1889

Boats on the Seine at Argenteuil, 1890

Laundry Drying, 1892

Self Portrait, 1892

Dahlias: The Garden at Petit Gennevilliers, 1893

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