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French, 19th century, male.
Born 19 August 1848, in Paris; died 21 February 1894, in Gennevilliers (Hauts-de-Seine).
Painter. Figures, nudes, portraits, landscapes, still-lifes.
Gustave Caillebotte was born into a rich bourgeois family and is remembered above all as a philanthropist, patron of the arts, avid collector, and generous supporter of the Impressionists, whose work he defended and with whom, as a painter in his own right, he regularly exhibited. Caillebotte completed his law studies in 1870 and was drafted into military service in the same year on the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War. He was demobilised in 1871 and attended courses during the following year under Bonnat in preparation for the Beaux-Arts entrance examinations, which he successfully completed in 1873. His father died in 1874, bequeathing a substantial fortune to his widow and four sons.
Caillebotte did not take part in the first Impressionist exhibition at Nadar’s but, by this time, he had already befriended Edgar Degas, who introduced him to the group of artists who were refused entry to the official Salon. (Caillebotte himself was refused entry in 1875.) A sale of Impressionist paintings that year saw Caillebotte purchase a number of Impressionist works, the beginnings of what subsequently proved a major collection that would lay the groundwork for the collections housed in the Musée du Luxembourg and, later, the Musée d’Orsay. At the invitation of Pierre-August Renoir and Henri Rouart, Caillebotte participated in the second Impressionist exhibition held at the Durand-Ruel Gallery in 1876. His younger brother died around that time, prompting Caillebotte to make his first testamentary disposition, providing for his collection to be left to the state. He went on to show at subsequent Impressionist exhibitions in 1877, 1879, and 1880. In 1881, however, he clashed with Degas and refused to exhibit. He returned to take part in the Impressionist exhibition of 1882, but not in that of 1886, the last collective showing by the Impressionists. That same year, Paul Durand-Ruel mounted an Impressionist exhibition in New York; Caillebotte participated in that event, as well as in the 1888 exhibition of the Group of Twenty in Brussels, and in the Durand-Ruel Paris exhibition entitled Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Painters. Caillebotte died of a stroke in 1894, at which point Durand-Ruel put together a retrospective; thereafter; however, Caillebotte’s body of work was largely ignored—although it was briefly acknowledged at the 1921 Autumn Salon and presented in almost its entirety in 1951 at the Wildenstein Gallery. It was not until the centenary of his death, in 1994, that the National Galleries at the Grand Palais in Paris assembled a full retrospective (which was subsequently transferred to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1995).
Letters written by Claude Monet, Renoir, Camille Pissarro, and Alfred Sisley bear witness to Gustave Caillebotte's generosity. Throughout his short life, he purchased their canvases, advanced them money, housed them (Monet, in particular), organised their meetings, helped them stage exhibitions, and, most importantly, made an unequivocal provision in his will for his entire collection of their work to be left to the Musée du Luxembourg, insisting that 'these paintings shall not be allowed to rot away in an attic or languish in some provincial museum when they belong properly in the Luxembourg and, eventually, in the Louvre'.
The very thought of Impressionists being admitted to the Louvre was enough to prompt Gérome and other leading lights on the Beaux-Arts staff to threaten resignation. Renoir, as the executor of Caillebotte's will, remained adamant, however, and the bequest was accepted, at least to a degree: of the 60 works that were intended to be housed in the Musée du Luxembourg, no fewer than 40 were 'held back' and exhibited in a specially built annex (the works in question were later transferred to the Musée d’Orsay).
Caillebotte's generosity was complemented by his commitment to everything he did. When he took up rowing at one of the family’s estates in Yerres, he did so with all the dedication of a professional athlete; subsequently, when he developed an interest in sailing, he took up the sport with a vengeance, not content until he had won regattas in a yacht designed and built by himself. Similarly, after purchasing a house in Gennevilliers in 1881, he took an active interest in the local community and gave generously in support of it. On his marriage in 1883 to Charlotte Berthier (real name: Anne Marie Hagen), Caillebotte immediately made a provision for a substantial endowment to be paid to her in the event of his death. In short, his entire life was one of spontaneous generosity and passionate commitment.
From his first exhibition alongside the Impressionists in 1976, Caillebotte showed his hand as a Realist, electing to exhibit his down-to-earth The Floor Scrapers rather than avail himself of the opportunity, as some of his friends had counselled him, to exhibit some 'attractive nudes'. As it happened, the art critic Marius Chaumelin was moved to comment that Caillebotte's Scrapers, while 'crudely realist', nevertheless had the 'sensitivity of Courbet and the vigour and precision of Manet'. The point is well taken: Caillebotte's realistic approach is undeniably comparable to the literary approach of his contemporary, Emile Zola, but his composition is worthy of Degas. Caillebotte would return to the theme of manual labour in other paintings. This preoccupation with subjects many considered mundane was totally in line with Caillebotte’s fascination with every aspect of modern life, not least in Paris, where he opted to portray—in preference to picturesque street scenes—the new boulevards laid out by Haussmann or new buildings such as the metal structure of On the Europe Bridge (1876). The work is composed in the shape of an 'X', mirroring the structure of the bridge itself; it is painted in economical greys and off-whites, which impart a serious, almost sombre aspect—not without a 'social dimension', however, as witness the bourgeois couple on the bridge meeting a worker. As is often the case, this theme is taken up in several variants, one of which, dating from 1876–1877, places greater emphasis on the metal structure of the bridge itself, that is to say, showing only rear and partial views of the figures crossing it and with a much freer use of greys and violet blues. In his earlier work, Caillebotte demonstrates a predilection for canvases that are painstakingly worked and finished, prompting one contemporary critic to observe of Paris Street: A Rainy Day, for example, that he was ‘an Impressionist in name only’. The canvas in question is quite remarkable in compositional terms, cut in two as it is by light from a streetlamp, so that the couple in the foreground right sheltering under an umbrella are juxtaposed against a clutch of smaller figures in the middle distance. This apparent lack of symmetry is heightened by the contrast achieved between the elegantly clean lines of the pavement extending to the right, set off against the rough cobblestones on the left, which are painted with bolder and cruder brushstrokes. The canvas as a whole achieves unity only by virtue of the sombre colour palette used throughout.
Caillebotte divided his time between Paris and the family estate at Yerres, where he painted scenes familiar to him from childhood, notably Rustic Scenes of 1876, where bourgeois women are depicted at their needlework in a garden setting; here, the composition divides along a diagonal, starting from the blue-grey tones of a dress and moving through the black dresses of the old women to end at the vivid red of a massive flower bed. Caillebotte also turned repeatedly to his favourite pastime, notably in Rowers of 1877. Here, while proving less gifted than his friends Renoir and Monet when it came to painting waterscapes, he once again demonstrates his compositional flair, particularly in his exemplarily Impressionistic rendering of the boat itself and the rowers straining at the oars.
Caillebotte’s work at this juncture continues to reflect time spent in Paris where, in the 1880s, he began to paint cityscapes as seen initially from terraces and balconies. There is a clear progression from Interior: Woman at a Window in 1880, to Balcony, Boulevard d’Haussmann of that same year, and Boulevard Seen from Above. Some of these canvases have powerful psychological overtones, not least Interior: Woman at a Window, where the theme of conjugal ennui is pronounced. The rear silhouette of a woman gazing out over the city is in marked contrast with the figure of her husband, sitting in his armchair and reading a newspaper. The woman’s gaze is directed toward the world outside, where one can discern the blurred contours of a building opposite and the more distinct lettering on a sign. Huysmans was particularly taken with this painting and its implicit psychological message.
Toward the end of his life, Caillebotte spent an increasing amount of time at Petit Gennevilliers and again turned his attention to the River Seine at Argenteuil, painting in densely applied and clear colours both Yachts at Argenteuil in 1888 and Regatta at Argenteuil in 1893. His body of work comprises more than Paris views and Seine landscapes, however; it also features several nudes, notably Man at His Bath of 1884, where the somewhat inelegant posture of the subject is reminiscent of Degas. He also painted portraits, including one of Henri Cordier and several self-portraits, one of which, painted in 1888–1889, is in browns and ochres, reminiscent of a self-portrait by Van Gogh; another, painted just before Caillabotte died, is executed in blue-grey tones and is both austere and full of pathos. Not least, Caillebotte painted still-lifes, such as Fruit Displayed on a Stand of 1880–1882 or his Chicken and Game Displayed on a Stand of 1882, both of which some of his contemporaries found strikingly crude and lacking in refinement. Finally, in 1893–1894, Caillebotte turned to flowers—the chrysanthemums, nasturtiums, and orchids he grew in his own garden—rendering them in a manner akin to Japanese prints.
Caillebotte's early style evolved from a meticulous realism (one might even say, populism) to one that emerged as sweepingly Impressionist, as in Man in a Smock, or Father Magliore on the Road Between St-Clair and Etretat painted in 1884, where a man in a blue blouson is seen from behind, trudging up a dusty path in startlingly white sunlight. The painting is reduced to bare essentials, with no decorative flowers or trees—simply a starkly white path under a blue sky, with a man in blue walking toward a tiny silhouette in black in the far distance.
Retrospectives held in Paris and Chicago in 1994–1995 have to some degree rehabilitated Caillebotte as an artist in his own right who, in addition to his patronage of leading Impressionists, was influenced by them and, in turn, influenced future generations. As Marie Berhaut has said, certain of his boulevard views presage similar compositions by Pissarro two decades later. Overall, Caillebotte will be remembered as an engaging personality and as a painter resolutely committed to the modern manner.
Museum and Gallery Holdings
Agen (MBA): Bathing, or The Dive (1877)
Algiers (Mus. National des Beaux-Arts): Man in Tall Hat Sitting at a Window (1880)
Bayeux (Mus. Baron-Gérard): Rustic Portraits (1876)
Bloomington (AM, Indiana University): Rain at Yerres (1875)
Boston (MFA): Fruit Displayed on a Stand (Fruits à l’étalage) (c. 1881–1882)
Chicago (AI): Paris Street: A Rainy Day (Rue de Paris, temps de pluie) (1877, oil on canvas); Thatched Cottage, Trouville (c. 1882)
Cologne (Wallraf-Richartz Mus.): Linen Drying on the Banks of the Seine at Petit Gennevilliers
Fort Worth (Kimbell AM): On the Europe Bridge (1876–1877, oil on canvas)
Geneva (Petit Palais): Le Pont de l’Europe (1876); Hare (1882); Père Magloire Reclining in the Woods (or Claude Monet Taking a Siesta) (1884); Man in Tunic: Père Magloire or Claude Monet at Etretat (1884); Child on a Couch (1885); Paris in the Snow (1886)
Hartford (Wadsworth Atheneum): Siesta (1877, pastel/board)
Houston (MFA): Madame Bossière Knitting (1877); Orange Trees (1878)
Kansas City (Nelson-Atkins MA): Portrait of Richard Gallo (1881)
Milwaukee (Art Center): Canoes (1877)
Minneapolis (IA): Nude on a Couch (Nu au divan) (c. 1880, oil on canvas)
Montpellier (Mus. Fabre): Portrait of Madame X (1878)
Paris (Mus. d'Orsay): The Floor Planers (1875); Snow-Covered Rooftops in Paris (1878); Portrait of Henri Cordier (1883); Self-Portrait (1892 ?); Yachts at Argenteuil (c. 1888); Woman Hanging Laundry (1887)
Paris (Mus. Marmottan-Monet): Paris Street: A Rainy Day (1877, sketch); Piano Lesson (1881); White and Yellow Chrysanthemums, Garden at Petit Gennevilliers (1893)
Rennes (MBA): Canoes (1878)
Rouen (MBA): In the Cafè (1880)
Seattle (AM): Woman on a Couch with Red Flowers (1882)
Toledo, OH (MA): Sea Regatta at Villerville (1884)
Toronto (AG of Ontario): Portrait of Eugène Daufresne (1878)
Washington, DC (NGA): Skiffs (1877, oil on canvas)
Paris, 28 April 1894: Orchard, FRF 780
Paris, 1899: Boulevard Haussmann in the Snow, FRF 620
Paris, 1900: Alley of Chestnut Trees, FRF 450
Paris, 22 March 1907: Apple Blossom, FRF 820
Paris, 25 Oct 1920: House by the Water, FRF 540
Paris, 4 April 1924: Regatta Day in Trouville, FRF 650
Paris, 1928: On the Bench, FRF 2,200
Paris, 27 April 1929: Beach at Trouville Seen from the Corniche, FRF 7,000
Paris, 8 Nov 1940: White Sails, FRF 1,600
Paris, 12 April 1943: Lilacs and Peonies, FRF 10,000
Paris, 23 June 1950: Villa at Ste-Adresse, FRF 24,000
Versailles, 10 Dec 1950: Plate of Fruit, FRF 32,000
Paris, 28 May 1954: Asters in a Vase, FRF 145,000
New York, 15 April 1959: Lobster, USD 1,500
Paris, 16 June 1959: Vase of Flowers, FRF 450,000
London, 23 Oct 1963: Manor House and Garden, GBP 1,400
Milan, 1 Dec 1964: Near Argenteuil, ITL 2,400,000
New York, 14 Oct 1965: Portrait of Seated Woman, USD 8,250
London, 26 April 1967: Vase of Lilacs, GBP 3,600
New York, 3 April 1968: Portrait of the Artist in His Studio, USD 10,000
Paris, 1 Dec 1969: Yachts, FRF 145,000
London, 27 June 1972: Country Garden (1882-1885) Gns 4,600
Paris, 21 March 1974: River Seine at Epinay, FRF 125,000
Versailles, 2 June 1976: Yachts on the Seine at Argenteuil (1892, oil on canvas, 28¾ × 23½ ins/73 × 60 cm) FRF 100,000
New York, 21 Oct 1977: Country Garden (c. 1882-1885, oil on canvas, 25½ × 21½ ins/65 × 54.5 cm) USD 9,500
New York, 1 Nov 1978: Sunflowers on the Banks of the Seine (1885-86, oil on canvas, 36¼ × 28¾ ins/92.3 × 73 cm) USD 70,000
Paris, 12 Dec 1979: Fish Platter (oil on canvas, 15 × 18 ins/38 × 46 cm) FRF 65,000
Paris, 20 Nov 1981: Atelier (oil on panel, 10 × 13 ins/25.5 × 33 cm) FRF 18,500
New York, 16 Nov 1984: Woman at Her Toilette (c. 1873, oil on canvas, 25½ × 32 ins/65 × 81 cm) USD 550,000
New York, 14 May 1985: Argenteuil Harbour (c. 1882, oil on canvas, 25¾ × 32 ins/65.5 × 81 cm) USD 430,000
Paris, 27 Nov 1986: Boats on the Seine at Argenteuil (oil on canvas, 28¾ × 23½ ins/73 × 60 cm) FRF 3,000,000
Paris, 10 Dec 1987: Roses and Purple Iris, Garden at Petit Gennevilliers (oil on canvas, 31½ × 15 ins/80 × 38 cm) FRF 620,000
London, 28 June 1988: Villas at Villers-sur-Mer (1880, oil on canvas, 23½ × 32 ins/60 × 81 cm) GBP 374,000
Paris, 10 April 1989: River Bank and Bridge at Argenteuil (1882, oil on canvas, 23½ × 28¾ ins/60 × 73 cm) FRF 450,000
New York, 15 Nov 1989: Villas at Trouville (1882, oil on canvas, 26 × 32 ins/66 × 81.2 cm) USD 715,000
London, 27 Nov 1989: Fishermen on the Seine (1888, oil on canvas, 25¾ × 32 ins/65.5 × 81.2 cm) GBP 1,320,000
Lyons, 13 Dec 1989: Houses on the Banks of the Loing (oil on canvas, 28¾ × 23½ ins/73 × 60 cm) FRF 1,410,000
Paris, 15 Dec 1989: House in the Normandy Countryside (1881, oil on panel, 10¼ × 13¾ ins/26 × 35 cm) FRF 1,400,000
Paris, 20 March 1990: Self-Portrait (c. 1857-1877, oil on canvas, 25½ × 19¾ ins/65 × 50 cm) FRF 820,000
New York, 18 May 1990: Villas at Trouville (1882, oil on canvas, 25½ × 32¼ ins/65 × 82 cm) USD 632,500
New York, 23 May 1990: Female Nude Reclining on a Couch (1873, pastel/material, 35 × 45¾ ins/88.9 × 116.2 cm) USD 577,500
Paris, 19 June 1990: Beach at Trouville Seen from the Corniche (oil on canvas, 23½ × 28¾ ins/60 × 73 cm) FRF 3,500,000
London, 25 June 1990: Banks of the Seine, Argenteuil (1889, oil on canvas, 21¼ × 25½ ins/54 × 65 cm) GBP 770,000
London, 26 June 1990: Head and Shoulders Portrait of Eugène Lamy (1888, oil on canvas, 25½ × 21½ ins/65 × 54.5 cm) GBP 35,000
Paris, 2 July 1990: Playing 'Hot Cockles' (c. 1882, oil on canvas, 50½ × 46 ins/128 × 116 cm) FRF 2,800,000
London, 4 Dec 1990: Autumn on a Branch of the Seine (oil on canvas, 25¾ × 21¼ ins/65.5 × 54 cm) GBP 275,000
Paris, 15 April 1991: Yerre Valley (1877, pastel, 22½ × 28¼ ins/57 × 72 cm) FRF 518,000
London, 25 June 1991: Houses by the Water (1882, oil on canvas, 25½ × 21¼ ins/65 × 54 cm) GBP 187,000
Paris, 23 March 1992: Normandy Landscape (oil on canvas, 24¾ × 28¾ ins/63 × 73 cm) FRF 1,650,000
New York, 10 Nov 1992: Sunflowers on the Banks of the Seine (oil on canvas, 36½ × 28¾ ins/92.4 × 73 cm) USD 715,000
London, 1 Dec 1993: Rose Bushes (oil on canvas, 22 × 15 ins/55 × 38 cm) GBP 34,500
London, 29 Nov 1994: Portrait of Paul Hugot (1878, oil on canvas, 80¼ × 36¼ ins/204 × 92 cm) GBP 661,500
Paris, 8 Dec 1994: Beach at Trouville Seen from the Corniche (1882, oil on canvas, 23½ × 28¾ ins/60 × 73 cm) FRF 2,300,000
Paris, 13 June 1995: Charlotte the Dog (1886, oil on panel, 25½ × 13 ins/65 × 33 cm) FRF 240,000
Paris, 20 June 1995: River Seine on a Misty Day (1891, oil on canvas, 25¼ × 20¾ ins/64 × 53 cm) FRF 680,000
Orléans, 7 Oct 1995: River Seine at Yerres (1878, pastel, 17 × 13 ins/43 × 33 cm) FRF 370,000
New York, 8 Nov 1995: Renoir’s Wife in the Garden at Petit Gennevilliers (oil on canvas, 25¼ × 19¾ ins/64.1 × 50.2 cm) USD 354,500
New York, 1 May 1996: Bridge at Argenteuil (1893, oil on canvas, 24 × 21½ ins/61 × 54.9 cm) USD 409,500
London, 25 June 1996: House and Garden in Normandy (1882, oil on canvas, 23½ × 28¾ ins/59.5 × 73 cm) GBP 210,500
New York, 13 Nov 1996: Fishermen on the Seine (1888, oil on canvas, 25¾ × 32 ins/65.5 × 81.2 cm) USD 1,872,500
New York, 14 May 1997: Banks of the Seine at Argenteuil (1888, oil on canvas, 21¼ × 26 ins/54 × 65.2 cm) USD 1,102,500
Paris, 11 June 1997: Hare (c. 1882, oil on canvas, 35 × 13¾ ins/89 × 35 cm) FRF 400,000
London, 25 June 1997: River Seine at Portejoie (c. 1891, oil on panel, 6½ × 11 ins/16.5 × 27 cm) GBP 38,900
London, 29 June 1999: Boat at Moorage on the Seine (c. 1890, oil on canvas, 16 × 13 ins/41 × 32 cm) GBP 45,000
New York, 11 Nov 1999: La Place St-Georges (1880, oil on canvas, 29 × 36 ins/73 × 92 cm) USD 1,100,000
New York, 8 May 2000: Man on Balcony, Boulevard Haussmann (1880, oil on canvas, 46 × 35 ins/116 × 89 cm) USD 13,000,000
New York, 8 Nov 2000: Still-Life with Vase of Lilies (1883, oil on canvas, 29 × 24 ins/73 × 60 cm) USD 750,000
London, 6 Feb 2001: Portrait of Monsieur R (1877, oil on canvas, 32 × 41 ins/81 × 105 cm) GBP 2,000,000
London, 26 June 2001: Child’s Garden (1890, oil on canvas, 29 × 24 ins/73 × 60 cm) GBP 500,000
New York, 7 May 2002: Lake at Argenteuil (c. 1882, oil on canvas, 26 × 32 ins/65 × 81 cm) USD 3,900,000
New York, 7 May 2002: Soldier (c. 1881, oil on canvas, 42 × 30 ins/107 × 75 cm) USD 5,800,000
New York, 7 May 2003: Rue Halevy, View from Balcony (1878, oil on canvas, 24 × 29 ins/60 × 73 cm) USD 1,250,000
New York, 4 Nov 2003: Path Uphill (1881, oil on canvas, 39 × 49 ins/100 × 125 cm) USD 6,000,000
New York, 5 May 2004: The Seine and the Tip of the lle Marande (c. 1890, oil on canvas, 24 × 29 ins/60 × 73 cm) USD 160,000
Paris, 9 June 2004: Trees in Flower, Petit Gennevilliers (oil on canvas, 21 × 26 ins/54 × 65 cm) EUR 910,000
Varnedoe, J. K. T.: Gustave Caillebotte, Adam Biro, Paris, 1988.
Wittmer, Pierre: Caillebotte and His Garden at Yerres, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1991.
Berhaut, M.: Caillebotte, catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Wildenstein Institute, Paris, 1994 (2nd edition).
Lévôque, Jean-Jacques: Gustave Caillebotte, l’oublié de l’impressionnisme, ACR Edition, Paris, 1994.
Distel, Anne, and others: Gustave Caillebotte: Urban Impressionist, exhibition catalogue, Musé;e d’Orsay, Paris; Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 1995 (French and English editions).
Varnedoe, K.: Gustave Caillebotte, Yale University Press, New Haven (CT), 2000.
Broude, Norma: Gustave Caillebotte and the Fashioning of Identity in Impressionist Paris, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick (NJ), 2002.
Fonsmark, Anne-Birgitte, and others: Gustave Caillebotte: Parisian Impressionist with a Passion for Water, Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern, 2008.
Dans l’intimité des frères Caillebotte: peintre et photographe, exhibition catalogue, Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris; Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Quebec City, 2011.
Sagner, Karin/Hollein, Max: Gustave Caillebotte: An Impressionist and Photography, exhibition catalogue, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, 2012.