Sunday, 22 November 2009


“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint’, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent Van Gogh

The illustration for yesterday’s blog is by today’s artist whose work and life I am showcasing for today’s Art Sunday offering. He is Gustave Caillebotte, born August 19th, 1848, died February 21st, 1894. He was a French painter and a generous patron of the impressionists, whose own works, until recently, were neglected. He was an engineer by profession, but also attended the Ècole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He met Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, and Pierre Auguste Renoir in 1874 and helped organise the first impressionist exhibition in Paris that same year.

He participated in later shows and painted some 500 works in a more realistic style than that of his friends. Caillebotte's most intriguing paintings are those of the broad, new Parisian boulevards. The boulevards were painted from high vantage points and were populated with elegantly clad figures strolling with the expressionless intensity of somnambulists, as in Boulevard Vu d'en Haut (1880; private collection, Paris). Caillebotte's superb collection of impressionist paintings was left to the French government on his death. With considerable reluctance the government accepted part of the collection…

In 1881 Caillebotte acquired a property on the banks of the Seine near Argenteuil, and moved there permanently in 1888. He stopped exhibiting his work at age 34 and devoted himself to gardening and to building and racing yachts. He was able to see his frieds and family at his property, and engaged in lively discussions on art, politics, literature, and philosophy. Although he never married, he 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 on his death.

In the early 1890s, Caillebotte stopped painting large canvases because of poor health. He died of pulmonary congestion while working in his garden at Petit-Gennevilliers in 1894 at age 45. After his death, Caillebotte's reputation as a painter was superseded by his reputation as a supporter of the arts, however, seventy years after his death, art historians began to re-evaluate his artistic contributions  and he is now regarded as a significant painter in his own right.

Above is his painting “Rue Halevy Seen from the Sixth Floor”, painted in 1878. It shows a favourite theme of his, an architectural extravaganza of a Paris boulevard, seen from above and with a highly characteristic perspective that is used in many of his paintings. I particularly like the violets and yellows in this painting that are set off by the more neutral creams and greys. It is more impressionistic than some of his other more realistic works, such as the “Paris Street, Rainy Day”, of 1877 that I featured in yesterday’s blog.

Have a good week!


  1. I missed yesterday's post and had to go back to look. I love both of these works. Street scenes with people hold such an appeal for me. This reminded me of a remarkable painting my late ex-husband bought for me on one of his infamous escapades. I think I might just blog about it at my own page today and post a picture. I feel quite differently about it now than when it was purchased.

  2. That and the previous painting by Callebottte are both beautiful. They are so much like the other impressionists, I wonder why his work was not as famous as their?

  3. I had seen the Parisian street scene with the umbrellas before but I was not aware of any other paintings by Caillebotte. He was a quiet achiever by the looks of things!
    Your blog has certainly spurred me on to go and look at more of his work, which I like!