Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) part II

Caillebotte painted many domestic and familial scenes, interiors, and portraits. Many of his paintings depict members of his family. There are scenes of dining, card playing, piano playing, reading, and sewing, all executed in an intimate, unobtrusive manner that portrays 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. He often used a soft impressionistic technique reminiscent of Renoir to convey the tranquil nature of the countryside, in sharp contrast to the flatter, smoother strokes of his urban paintings.

Caillebotte is best known for his paintings of urban Paris, which were quite controversial due to their exaggerated, plunging perspective. 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.

In 1881, Caillebotte acquired a property at Petit-Gennevilliers, on the banks of the Seine near Argenteuil, and he 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 he spent much time with his brother, Martial, and his friend Auguste Renoir. Renoir often came to stay at Petit-Gennevilliers, and engaged in far-ranging discussions on art, politics, literature, and philosophy. Caillebotte was a model for Renoir’s 1881 painting, Luncheon of the Boating Party. Never married, Cailebotte 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 congestion while working in his garden at Petit-Gennevilliers in 1894 at age 45. He was interred at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

For many years and in part because he never had to sell his work to support himself, Caillebotte’s reputation as a painter was overshadowed by his recognition 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 otherwise surpassed him. His art was largely forgotten until the 1950s, when his descendants began to sell the family collection. In 1964, The Art Institute of Chicago acquired Paris Street; Rainy Day, spurring American interest in him. By the 1970s, his works were being exhibited again and critically reassessed.

The National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.) and the Kimbell Art Museum (Fort Worth, Texas) organized a major retrospective display of Caillebotte’s painting for exhibition in 2015–2016, to pursue further the rediscovery of his work.

See the beginning of this article in part I




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