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Gustave Caillebotte

French Painter

Gustave Caillebotte Photo
Movements and Styles: Realism, Impressionism

Born: August 19, 1848 - Paris, France

Died: February 21, 1894 - Gennevilliers, France

"The very great artists attach you even more to life."

Gustave Caillebotte Signature

Summary of Gustave Caillebotte

Even up to the 1950s, Gustave Caillebotte was relatively unknown despite achieving much in Paris during the reign of the Impressionists. Like many of his fellow avant-garde artists, he was fascinated by the impact of industrialization and modernization on the city of Paris and its inhabitants. While he is classified as an Impressionist, the paintings that are considered by most to be his masterpieces actually fall more into the category of Realism, like the work of his predecessors, Millet and Courbet, and even Degas or Monet's earlier work. Individual paintings in his oeuvre frequently feature the distinctive, loose brushwork and lighter palette of the Impressionist style, but the paintings for which he is best known are large-scale, precise "evocations of photographic naturalism," as one contemporary critic put it, although at the time the comment was meant to be taken pejoratively. Ultimately, what he had most in common with his Impressionist colleagues was his choice of subject matter: he depicted themes from everyday life rather than those favored by formally trained, academic painters.

Key Ideas

Caillebotte was an enthusiastic collector of photographs as were some of the other artists in the Impressionist group - Degas most of all. In both artists' work you can easily identify some of the major formal characteristics that borrow from photography. Foremost is the often radical cropping of a portion of a painting, drawing, or print, imitative of the way the camera lens cuts off the edges of a given view. There is evidence that he used photographs produced by his brother, Martial, an accomplished photographer who did not receive much recognition for his work, as references and probably direct guides for some of his compositions.
Like many of his Impressionist and Post-Impressionist colleagues, Caillebotte was influenced by Japanese art, especially printmaking. Prints, particularly those from the Edo period in Japan, provided these artists with thematic inspiration as they typically captured scenes from daily life. Their formal influence was even more pronounced and, in the work of Caillebotte, one can detect it in the often extremely tilted ground of a work and the frequent high vantage points, both major visual traits of Japanese prints.
For decades after his death, Caillebotte was better known as a major source of financial support and patronage of a number of his artist colleagues, including his close friends Renoir and Monet, as well as Manet and Pissarro.
For decades after his death, Caillebotte was better known as an important donor to the French State of a collection of important Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works in addition to bequeathing a large number of his own paintings. In fact, the bequest specified that the works should be displayed in the Luxembourg Museum and later in the Louvre Museum - which was somewhat problematic at the time as his art was still not accepted widely by the mainstream artistic establishment.
Gustave Caillebotte Photo

Gustave Caillebotte was born into a wealthy Parisian family on August 19, 1848. The family lived in Paris on the rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis. Martial Caillebotte, his father, had inherited his family's military textile business. Additionally, the elder Caillebotte was a judge at the Tribunal de commerce in the Seine department. He had already been widowed twice by the time he married his third wife and Gustave's mother, Celeste Daufresne. The eldest of her three children with Martial, Gustave had two younger brothers, Rene and Martial.

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