Gustave Caillebotte: The floor scrapers

Gustave Caillebotte: The floor scrapers, 1876




Gustave Caillebotte: Le Pont de L'Europe

Gustave Caillebotte: Le Pont de L'Europe, 1876




Gustave Caillebotte: París, rainy weather

Gustave Caillebotte: París, rainy weather, 1877




Gustave Caillebotte: L'homme au balcon, boulevard Haussmann

Gustave Caillebotte: L'homme au balcon, boulevard Haussmann


Very few painters contributed so much to the impressionist phenomenon as Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894), and, nevertheless, his name always appears in a second row, behind outsiders like Monet, Renoir, Degas, and company. To his pictorial oeuvre, highly important although perhaps not at the same level than the famous painters mentioned before, Caillebotte adds a vital work of patronage, thanks to its rich social condition, that allows the other impressionist painters to participate in diverse exhibitions and to work with the security of that the young Caillebotte would not doubt in helping them economically if their works were not sold in sufficient amount. In addition, Caillebotte donated to its death a highly important collection of paintings to the French State.


But we are going to leave a little to the margin this work of patron and to center us in the pictorial side of Caillebotte. Younger than most of his impressionist colleagues, he does not participate in the first exhibition of 1874, but, however, he is a protagonist in the one of 1877, causing an astonishment in critics and companions. His work looks quite strange: whereas the drawing and the compositions were very similar to the academic and even obsolete painting from the Salon, his brushstrokes and colours had a clearly impressionist vocation.

In his first masterpiece, Les raboteurs (1876, Paris, Museé d' Orsay) Caillebotte reunites an almost photographic focus with a composition marked by a stranger and vertiginous perspective, a constant characteristic in his first works. This work exemplifies as no other the stupor that Caillebotte could cause between the assistants to the firsts impressionist exhibitions. Zola, who really appreciated Caillebotte, described it like "an antiartistic, clean painting, frost and bourgeois, by force of exactitude." It's not strange that the greater applause to this work came from the conservative sectors of the Salon , which perhaps did not please too much to the artist.

The Bridge of Europe (1876, Geneva , Museé du Petit-Palais) and, of course, Paris, rainy weather (1877, The Art Institute of Chicago) maintains the characteristics of the previous painting, and turns the Haussmann's Paris into the favourite scene of Caillebotte's personal perspective.

In the following year, Caillebotte begins to move away from the serious and cold style of the Salon to create its own totally impressionist style. This is evident in the different versions from the L'homme au balcon , in which the originality of the perspective catches the spectator, attracting it to watch beyond the man - in appearance the protagonist of the painting- to be centred in the grandiloquence of the exterior space.


In the decade of the 1880s Caillebotte's artistic career gives a radical turn when he moved to a house in front of Argenteuil, at the banks of the Seine, where begins his interest in the sailboats.

The works of this period are characterized by a moderation in the perspective, less forced than in most of his urban paintings, although he continues with the unusual compositions, or by strange points of view or to be in appearance arbitrarily cut. The beautiful images of sailboats painted by Caillebotte in his final years have a clear influence of those represented by Monet years before.

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