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Gustave Caillebotte

Gustave Caillebotte

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Gustave Caillebotte was a French painter
Painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

, member and patron of the group of artists known as Impressionists, though he painted in a much more realistic manner than many other artists in the group. Caillebotte was noted for his early interest in photography as an art form.

Early life


Gustave Caillebotte was born on 19 August 1848 to an upper-class Parisian family living in the rue Faubourg St.-Denis. His father, Martial Caillebotte (1799–1874), was the inheritor of the family's military textile business and was also a judge at the Seine department's Tribunal de Commerce. Caillebotte's father was twice widowed before marrying Caillebotte's mother, Céleste Daufresne (1819–1878), who had two more sons after Gustave, René (1851–1876) and Martial (1853–1910). Caillebotte was born at home on rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis in Paris, and lived there until 1866 when his father had a home built on rue de Miromesnil. Beginning in 1860, the Caillebotte family began spending many of their summers in Yerres
Yerres
Yerres is a commune in the southeastern suburbs of Paris, France. It is located from the center of Paris.Inhabitants are called Yerrois.-Geography:Yerres lies in the North-Eastern part of Essonne and bordering the Val-de-Marne...

, a town on the Yerres River about 12 miles south of Paris, where Martial Caillebotte, Sr. had purchased a large property. It was around this time that Caillebotte probably began to draw and paint.

Caillebotte earned a law degree in 1868 and a licence to practise law in 1870. He was also an engineer. Shortly afterwards, he was drafted to fight in the Franco-Prussian war
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

, and served in the Garde Nationale Mobile de la Seine.

Artistic life



After the war, Caillebotte began visiting the studio of painter Léon Bonnat
Léon Bonnat
Léon Joseph Florentin Bonnat was a French painter.He was born in Bayonne, but from 1846 to 1853 he lived in Madrid, where his father owned a bookshop. While tending his father's shop, he copied engravings of works by the Old Masters, developing a passion for drawing...

, where he began to seriously study painting. He developed an accomplished style in a relatively short period of time and had his first studio in his parents' home. In 1873, Caillebotte entered the École des Beaux-Arts
École des Beaux-Arts
École des Beaux-Arts refers to a number of influential art schools in France. The most famous is the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, now located on the left bank in Paris, across the Seine from the Louvre, in the 6th arrondissement. The school has a history spanning more than 350 years,...

, but apparently did not spend much time there. He inherited his father's fortune in 1874 and the three sons divided the family fortune after their mother's death in 1878. Around 1874, Caillebotte met and befriended several artists working outside the official French Academy, including Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas[p] , born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas, was a French artist famous for his work in painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing. He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism although he rejected the term, and preferred to be called a realist...

 and Giuseppe de Nittis
Giuseppe De Nittis
Giuseppe De Nittis was an Italian painter whose work merges the styles of Salon art and Impressionism.De Nittis was born in Barletta, where he first studied under Giovanni Battista Calò...

, and attended (but did not participate in) the first Impressionist exhibition of 1874.

The "Impressionists" - also called the "Independents", "Intransigents", and "Intentionalists" - had broken away from the academic painters showing in the annual Salons. Caillebotte did make his debut in the second Impressionist exhibition in 1876 showing eight paintings including Les raboteurs de parquet (The Floor Scrapers) (1875), his earliest masterpiece. Its subject matter, the depiction of labourers preparing a wooden floor (thought to have been that of the artist's own studio) was considered "vulgar" by some critics and is the probable reason why it was rejected by the Salon of 1875. At the time, the art establishment only deemed rustic peasants or farmers as acceptable subjects from the working class. The painting now resides at the Musée d'Orsay. A second version, in a more realistic style resembling that of Degas, was also exhibited, demonstrating Caillebotte's range of technique and his adept restatement of the same subject matter.

Caillebotte's style belongs to the School of Realism
Realism (arts)
Realism in the visual arts and literature refers to the general attempt to depict subjects "in accordance with secular, empirical rules", as they are considered to exist in third person objective reality, without embellishment or interpretation...

 but was strongly influenced by his Impressionist associates. In common with his precursors, Jean-François Millet
Jean-François Millet
Jean-François Millet was a French painter and one of the founders of the Barbizon school in rural France...

 and Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet
Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet was a French painter who led the Realist movement in 19th-century French painting. The Realist movement bridged the Romantic movement , with the Barbizon School and the Impressionists...

, as well his contemporary Degas, Caillebotte aimed to paint reality as it existed and as he saw it, hoping to reduce painting's inherent theatricality. Perhaps because of his close relationship with so many of his peers, his style and technique varies considerably among his works, as if "borrowing" and experimenting, but not really sticking to any one style. At times, he seems very much in the Degas camp of rich-colored realism (especially his interior scenes) and at other times, he shares the Impressionists' commitment to "optical truth" and employs an impressionistic pastel-softness and loose brush strokes most similar to Renoir
Renoir
-People with the surname Renoir :* Pierre-Auguste Renoir , French painter* Pierre Renoir , French actor and son of Pierre-Auguste Renoir* Jean Renoir , French film director and son of Pierre-Auguste Renoir...

 and Pissarro, though with a less vibrant palette.

Caillebotte painted many domestic and familial scenes, interiors, and portraits. Many of his paintings depict members of his family; Young Man at His Window (Jeune Homme à sa fenêtre) (1875) shows René in the home on rue de Miromesnil; The Orange Trees (Les orangers) (1878), depicts Martial Jr. and his cousin Zoë in the garden of the family property at Yerres; and Portraits in the Country (Portraits à la campagne) (1875) includes Caillebotte's mother along with his aunt, cousin, and a family friend. There are scenes of dining, card playing, piano playing, reading and sewing all done in an intimate, unobtrusive manner which observes the quiet ritual of upper-class indoor life.

His country scenes at Yerres focus on pleasure boating on the leisurely stream as well as fishing and swimming, and domestic scenes around his country home. Often, he used a soft impressionistic technique reminiscent of Renoir
Renoir
-People with the surname Renoir :* Pierre-Auguste Renoir , French painter* Pierre Renoir , French actor and son of Pierre-Auguste Renoir* Jean Renoir , French film director and son of Pierre-Auguste Renoir...

 to convey the tranquil nature of the countryside, in sharp contrast to the flatter, smoother strokes of his urban paintings. In Oarsman in a Top Hat (1877), he effectively manages the perspective of a passenger in the back of a row boat facing his rowing companion and the stream ahead, in a manner much more realistic and involving than Manet
Manet
-MANET as an abbreviation:*MANET is a mobile ad hoc network, a self-configuring mobile wireless network.*MANET database or Molecular Ancestry Network, bioinformatics database-People with the surname Manet:*Édouard Manet, a 19th-century French painter....

's Boating (1874).
Caillebotte is best known for his paintings of urban Paris, such as The Bridge 'De l'Europe' (Le pont de l'Europe) (1876), and Paris Street; Rainy Day (Rue de Paris; temps de pluie, also known as La Place de l'Europe, temps de pluie) (1877). The latter is almost unique among his works for its particularly flat colors and photo-realistic effect which gives the painting its distinctive and modern look, almost akin to American Realists such as Edward Hopper
Edward Hopper
Edward Hopper was a prominent American realist painter and printmaker. While most popularly known for his oil paintings, he was equally proficient as a watercolorist and printmaker in etching...

. Many of his urban paintings were quite controversial due to their exaggerated, plunging perspective. In Man on a Balcony (1880), he invites the viewer to share the balcony with his subject and join in observing the scene of the city reaching into the distance, again by using unusual perspective. Showing little allegiance to any one style, many of Caillebotte's other urban paintings done in the same period, such as The Place Saint-Augustin (1877), are considerably more impressionistic.

The tilted ground common to these paintings is very characteristic of Caillebotte's work, which may have been strongly influenced by Japanese prints and the new technology of photography, though evidence of his actual use of photography is lacking. Cropping and "zooming-in", techniques which are also commonly found in Caillebotte's oeuvre, may also be the result of his interest in photography, but may just as likely derive from his intense interest in perspective effects. A large number of Caillebotte's works also employ a very high vantage point, including View of Roooftops (Snow) (Vue des toits, effet de neige) (1878), Boulevard Seen from Above (Boulevard vu d'en haut) (1880), and A Traffic Island (Un refuge, boulevard Haussmann) (1880).

Caillebotte's still-life paintings focus primarily on food, some at table ready to be eaten and some ready to be purchased, as in a series of paintings he made of meat at a butcher shop. He also produced some floral still life paintings, particularly in the 1890s. Rounding out his subject matter, he painted a few nudes, most notably Nude on a Couch (1882), which, though provocative in its realism, is ambivalent in its mood — neither overtly erotic nor suggestive of mythology — themes common to many female nude paintings of that era.

Later life


Caillebotte acquired a property at Petit-Gennevilliers, on the banks of the Seine near Argenteuil
Argenteuil
Argenteuil is a commune in the northwestern suburbs of Paris, France. It is located from the center of Paris. Argenteuil is a sub-prefecture of the Val-d'Oise department, the seat of the arrondissement of Argenteuil....

, in 1881, and moved there permanently in 1888. He ceased showing his work at age 34 and devoted himself to gardening and to building and racing yachts, and spent much time with his brother, Martial, and his friend Renoir, who often came to stay at Petit-Gennevilliers, and engaged in far ranging discussions on art, politics, literature, and philosophy. Never married, he appears to have had a serious relationship with Charlotte Berthier, a woman eleven years his junior and of the lower class, to whom he left a sizable annuity.

Caillebotte's painting career slowed dramatically in the early 1890s, when he stopped making large canvases. Caillebotte died of pulmonary
Human lung
The human lungs are the organs of respiration in humans. Humans have two lungs, with the left being divided into two lobes and the right into three lobes. Together, the lungs contain approximately of airways and 300 to 500 million alveoli, having a total surface area of about in...

 congestion while working in his garden at Petit-Gennevilliers in 1894 at age 45, and was interred at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

For many years, Caillebotte's reputation as a painter was superseded by his reputation as a supporter of the arts. Seventy years after his death, however, art historians began reevaluating his artistic contributions. His striking use of varying perspective is particularly admirable and sets him apart from his peers who may have exceeded him in other artistic areas. His art was largely forgotten until the 1950s when his descendents began to sell the family collection. In 1964, The Art Institute of Chicago acquired Paris Street; Rainy Day
Paris Street; Rainy Day
Paris Street; Rainy Day is a large 1877 oil painting by the French artist Gustave Caillebotte. The piece depicts the Place de Dublin, an intersection near the Gare Saint-Lazare, a railroad station in north Paris...

, spurring American interest in the artist. By the 1970s, his works were being exhibited again and critically reassessed.

Patron and collector


Caillebotte's sizable allowance, along with the inheritance he received after the death of his father in 1874 and his mother in 1878, allowed him to paint without the pressure to sell his work. It also allowed him to help fund Impressionist exhibitions and support his fellow artists and friends (including Claude Monet
Claude Monet
Claude Monet was a founder of French impressionist painting, and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement's philosophy of expressing one's perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air landscape painting. . Retrieved 6 January 2007...

, Auguste Renoir, and Camille Pissarro
Camille Pissarro
Camille Pissarro was a French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painter born on the island of St Thomas . His importance resides in his contributions to both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, as he was the only artist to exhibit in both forms...

 among others) by purchasing their works and, at least in the case of Monet, paying the rent for their studios.

Caillebotte bought his first Monet in 1876 and was especially helpful to that artist's career and financial survival. He was precise in his sponsorship; notably absent are works by Georges Seurat and Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin
Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin was a leading French Post-Impressionist artist. He was an important figure in the Symbolist movement as a painter, sculptor, print-maker, ceramist, and writer...

, or any of the Symbolists. He played a major role in persuading the Louvre
Louvre
The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement...

 to purchase Manet's Olympia for their greater good.

Other interests


In addition, Caillebotte used his wealth to fund a variety of hobbies for which he was quite passionate, including stamp collecting (his name was inscribed in the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists
Roll of Distinguished Philatelists
The Roll of Distinguished Philatelists is a philatelic award of international scale, created by the Philatelic Congress of Great Britain in 1921...

, and his collection is now in the British Library
British Library
The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom, and is the world's largest library in terms of total number of items. The library is a major research library, holding over 150 million items from every country in the world, in virtually all known languages and in many formats,...

), orchid horticulture, yacht building, and even textile design (the women in his paintings Madame Boissière Knitting, 1877, and Portrait of Madame Caillebotte, 1877, may be working on patterns created by Caillebotte).

Caillebotte's collection



In his will, Caillebotte donated a large collection to the French government. This collection included sixty-eight paintings by various artists: Camille Pissarro
Camille Pissarro
Camille Pissarro was a French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painter born on the island of St Thomas . His importance resides in his contributions to both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, as he was the only artist to exhibit in both forms...

 (nineteen), Claude Monet
Claude Monet
Claude Monet was a founder of French impressionist painting, and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement's philosophy of expressing one's perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air landscape painting. . Retrieved 6 January 2007...

 (fourteen), Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir was a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style. As a celebrator of beauty, and especially feminine sensuality, it has been said that "Renoir is the final representative of a tradition which runs directly from Rubens to...

 (ten), Alfred Sisley
Alfred Sisley
Alfred Sisley was an Impressionist landscape painter who was born and spent most of his life, in France, but retained British citizenship. He was the most consistent of the Impressionists in his dedication to painting landscape en plein air...

 (nine), Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas[p] , born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas, was a French artist famous for his work in painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing. He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism although he rejected the term, and preferred to be called a realist...

 (seven), Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne was a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th century conception of artistic endeavour to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. Cézanne can be said to form the bridge between late 19th...

 (five), and Édouard Manet
Édouard Manet
Édouard Manet was a French painter. One of the first 19th-century artists to approach modern-life subjects, he was a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism....

 (four).

At the time of Caillebotte's death, the Impressionists were still largely condemned by the art establishment in France, which was dominated by Academic art
Academic art
Academic art is a style of painting and sculpture produced under the influence of European academies of art. Specifically, academic art is the art and artists influenced by the standards of the French Académie des Beaux-Arts, which practiced under the movements of Neoclassicism and Romanticism,...

 and specifically the Académie des beaux-arts
Académie des beaux-arts
The Académie des Beaux-Arts is a French learned society. It is one of the five academies of the Institut de France.It was created in 1795 as the merger of the:* Académie de peinture et de sculpture...

. Because of this, Caillebotte realised that the cultural treasures in his collection would likely disappear into "attics" and "provincial museums". He therefore stipulated that they must be displayed in the Luxembourg Palace
Luxembourg Palace
The Luxembourg Palace in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, north of the Luxembourg Garden , is the seat of the French Senate.The formal Luxembourg Garden presents a 25-hectare green parterre of gravel and lawn populated with statues and provided with large basins of water where children sail model...

 (devoted to the work of living artists), and then in the Louvre
Louvre
The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement...

.

Unfortunately, the French government would not agree to these terms. In February 1896, they finally negotiated terms with Renoir, who was the will's executor, under which they took thirty-eight of the paintings to the Luxembourg. The installation constituted the first presentation of the Impressionists in a public venue in France. The remaining twenty-nine paintings (one, a Degas, was taken by Renoir in payment for his services as executor) were offered to the French government twice more, in 1904 and 1908, and were both times refused. When the government finally attempted to claim them in 1928, the bequest was repudiated by the widow of Caillebotte's son. Most of the remaining works were purchased by Albert C. Barnes
Albert C. Barnes
Albert Coombs Barnes was an American chemist and art collector. With the fortune made from the development of the antiseptic, anti-blindness drug Argyrol, he founded the Barnes Foundation, an educational institution based on his private collection of art...

, and are now held by the Barnes Foundation.

Forty of Caillebotte's own works are now held by the Musée d'Orsay
Musée d'Orsay
The Musée d'Orsay is a museum in Paris, France, on the left bank of the Seine. It is housed in the former Gare d'Orsay, an impressive Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1915, including paintings, sculptures, furniture,...

. His Man on a Balcony, Boulevard Haussmann (Homme au balcon, boulevard Haussmann) (1880), sold for more than US$14.3 million in 2000.

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