Gustave Caillebotte: A true friend of the Impressionists



Patron of the arts, financial supporter of many Impressionists and all ’round good dude, Gustave Caillebotte was also an accomplished painter – though not quite an Impressionist himself. He had the good fortune of being fabulously wealthy. He developed a fine realist style, seen here in this large painting of a rainy Paris street (You can see the real thing at the Museum of Art in Chicago.)

Gustave Caillebotte, self portrait. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Gustave Caillebotte, self portrait. Source: Wikimedia Commons

We owe Mr. Caillebotte a debt of gratitude. Without his participation and patronage, it may well be likely the Impressionists would have enjoyed considerably less success. Caillebotte was very generous with his wealth and would buy paintings at inflated prices, and provide financial support to artists such as Monet, Pissaro and Renoir. He was a critical player in organizing, and helping to finance many of the famed Impressionist exhibitions.

Gustave Caillebotte
Paris Street, Rainy Day, (1877)
108″w X 83″h

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons


Mr. Caillebotte was a great friend to the Impressionists – he even exhibited with them – but his style is more realistic than is common in the group. No matter. His subject matter certainly has the feel of Impressionist work. You can almost smell the wet pavement, and hear the footsteps and horse hooves, in this Paris scene. The composition is tremendous in it’s use of perspective – the way the avenues recede into the distance, the whole effect enhanced by those wet pavement stones. It’s an ordinary day in Paris… yet he has composed a view that is extraordinary. Busy on the right, open on the left. Rooftops fading into the distance. We might have seen this scene, were we there, but Caillebotte has grabbed the perfect moment for us.


Pont de L'Europe. Gustave Caillebotte. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Pont de L’Europe. Gustave Caillebotte. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Caillebotte was a multi-faceted fellow: Trained as an engineer and a lawyer, he was also a painter, arts patron, solider (Franco-Prussian War), horticulturalist, boat designer and racer, and one of the first to recognize photography as an art form. He died young: 46 years old.


Did Caillebotte use photographs to compose his paintings? He and his brother were photographers (an art in it’s infancy). Though no actual evidence has been found, there are some historians that think so, and seem to think this devalues the work somehow. But really, guys, tons of artists have used photography or mechanical aids (like Vermeer’s maybe camera obscura) to make their images. Does it really matter? He clearly has the ability to paint well, to compose well, and to choose scenes that affect us.

71MasterPiece1Another Fun Fact: I’ve long known of this painting – since I was about 10 years old. How? Was I an erudite young lad, schooled in art history? An art prodigy of some kind? No. Not at all. I was the owner of the game “Masterpiece: An Art Auction Game” by Parker Brothers. The game had cards of famous paintings and there was some sort of auction involved. Sorry to say I don’t recall. But I did learn a lot of paintings by playing.


One Response to Gustave Caillebotte: A true friend of the Impressionists

  1. What I think is super cool about the two painting you posted that this Gus dude guy composed is the fact you nailed (which by the way, is a big thing as I would miss the nail and whack my thumb with lots of pain and expletives to follow) is he grabbed the moment for us. Most of us are all too familiar with life lived through smart phones… here (gotta take a picture of it), there… (gotta take a picture of it), and everywhere (gotta take a picture of it). I have a dumb phone (and an even dumber operator, aka me), so the temptation for photos of everything is less all consuming. And there are times I wish I could take a photo but don’t have a phone to help out. Regardless, it is an everyday part of our lives. I think it tends to pull us out of the moment, the experience, the now that always is and ever will be. It is so hard to live in the moment as is. We drift back or forward in time so often with thoughts of worse or better things to come, judge where we are now based on emotions, experiences, etc. But it really boils down to the moment we are in. That is what we have be it absolute pain, bliss, or any other of the infinite possibilities. So… back to Gus. To think he spent hours upon hours to capture this moment for us to stop, pause, and soak in now, in our moment, is an incredible gift to us. For me – I experience the feel the wet stones under my feet. I hear the horse. Smell the sweet wet. And node hello as I walk by the folks that pass my way. My moment is rich, and I embrace it. I need these pleasurable moments along with all the other more challenging ones. Thanks Gus for giving us a simple moment.

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