Monday, February 23, 2015

Caillebotte, Gustave

Caillebotte's mother along with his aunt, cousin, and a family friend (Portraits a la campagne)
oil on canvas
98.5 x 111 cm
Musee Baron Gerard, Bayeux, France

Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) was a French painter, member of artists known as Impressionists group, though he painted in a much more realistic manner. He was a painter of great originality. Like the Impressionists, he pursued an instant of vision, recording it with a fullness of truthful detail. He, however, attempted to portray the rhythms of an industrial society with his regimented figures and the clock-like precision of his Paris. In 1875, wishing to make his public debut, he submitted a painting to the Salon jury, which rejected it. That work was probably the Floorscrapers, which Caillebotte then decided to exhibit in a more hospitable environment, that of the second Impressionist group exhibition of 1876. His work, highly acclaimed, stole the show and helped to make the second exhibition far more of a popular success than the first.

Caillebotte was born into a wealthy family who had made their money in textiles and real estate during the redevelopment of Paris in the 1860s. Wealthy and generous, Caillebotte financially supported his Impressionist friends by purchasing their works at inflated prices and underwriting many of the expenses encurred for the exhibitions. In 1876 he drew up a will providing money for an Impressionist exhibition to be held after his death, and bequeathing his collection of Impressionist paintings to the State. This bequest was made on the condition that the paintings should first be exhibited in the Luxembourg (the museum dedicated to the work of living artists), and later to the Louvre. He intended that the State should not hide the paintings away in an attic or provincial museum.

He was an engineer by profession and a generous patron of the Impressionists, whose own works, until recently, were neglected. His reputation as a painter was superseded, for many years, by his reputation as a supporter of the arts. His art was largely forgotten until the 1950s when his descendents began to sell the family collection. Art historians began reevaluating his artistic contributions, seventy years after his death. 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.