Biography

Occupation: Painter
Movement: Impressionist
 
Famous Artworks
"Le parc de la propriété Caillebotte a Yerres," 1875
"Le Pont de l'Europe," 1876
"L'homme au balcon, boulevard Haussmann," 1880
"Chemin Montant," 1881
"Un soldat," 1881
"La Seine a Argenteuil," 1882
"Le bassin d'Argenteuil," 1882
"Le Pont d'Argenteuil et la Seine," 1883
 
Gustave Caillebotte was a French painter who was also keenly interested in photography, much before it became a common art form. Although he was an enthusiastic patron and member of the Impressionist group, his own work places itself closer to Realism than the evocative landscapes of the Impressionists. As a patron, he collected many artists’ works, and helped Monet’s career tremendously.
 
Early Life
Born at home in August of 1848, Gustave Caillebotte belonged to a wealthy family dealing in real estate and textiles. His father, Martial Caillebotte, was a judge at the Tribunal de Commerce. He had lost two wives before he married Celeste Daufresne, Gustave’s mother. Caillebotte spent his childhood on the Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis in Paris before moving to a home his father built on the Rue de Miromesnil in 1866.
 
Caillebotte took up painting during summer trips to the town of Yerres, about 20 kilometers south of Paris, in the 1860s. His father had bought an estate close to the river there, and he spent many hours observing nature and teaching himself to draw. Nevertheless, he was obliged to study law and earned a degree and a license over the next decade. When the Franco-Prussian war broke out, any real practice was not possible, so he was drafted into the Garde Nationale Mobile de la Seine.
 
He began studying painting seriously under the influence of Leon Bonnat and established his first studio within his parents’ home. He was admitted into the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1873 but reportedly spent little time there.
 
Not Quite Impressionist
In Paris, Caillebotte actively mingled within the social network of artists, befriending artists such as Edgar Degas and Giuseppe de Nittis, both Impressionists, who worked outside the academic framework. He did attend the First Impressionist Exhibition in 1874, even though his own work did not clearly reflect their style or idiom. He also participated in the Impressionist show mounted the following year at the annual Salon des Independants, showcasing eight canvases including the now-famous “Les Raboteurs de Parquet.” Critics deemed the painting vulgar in subject matter, as only pastoral scenes were acceptable as depictions of the working class at the time. However, he used a variety of subjects, many of them family portraits and scenes of domesticity. “Portaits a la Campagne,” “Jeune Homme a la Fenetre,” and “Les Orangers” are all of members of his own clan; images of shared meals, silent leisure, piano playing – all executed with a sense of intimacy, as if the viewer was the ubiquitous fly on the wall observing the indoor rituals of the upper classes.
 
Caillebotte’s exposure to the Impressionists had some influence over his personal style but he belonged to a school based more in Realism, comparable to older painters like Jean-Francois Millet and Gustave Courbet. He attempted to depict reality as it was, without embellishment and theatricality, or detracting from fullness of detail. His keen interest in photography is a reflection of this, and the technique of cropping and zooming can be discerned in some of his paintings, in addition to his preference for unusual perspectives.
 
A Patron of the Arts
The success of the Second Impressionist Exhibition led Caillebotte to become their main organizer and promoter for the next six years. His father’s death in 1874 had left him the sole heir of the family estate, and he used his considerable wealth to finance art, purchasing the early works of Pissarro, Sisley, Renoir, Degas, and Berthe Morisot. He pointedly bought the canvases that would be difficult to sell in the open market, the ones considered too large or experimental. He developed a close friendship with Claude Monet as well, and his assistance was pivotal to Monet’s survival and career. Caillebotte was instrumental in organizing a public subscription for him in 1890, in addition to paying his studio rent for a number of years. 
 
Mature Years
Caillebotte stopped exhibiting his own work in 1882 and moved to the riverside village of Petit-Gennevilliers, where he would spend the remainder of his life. He turned to gardening and yacht racing with great passion. He also spent time with his brother Martial and with Pierre-Auguste Renoir who was a frequent visitor.
 
Death and Legacy
At age 45, Caillebotte died of pulmonary congestion.  He was buried at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.      
Although Caillebotte remained a bachelor until his death in 1894, he left a considerable annuity for Charlotte Berthier, with whom he had a serious relationship despite the fact that she was much younger and came from a very modest social background.
 
The originality and diversity of Caillebotte’s work was striking, and his treatment of light was exceptionally realistic. He had willed his paintings to the French government on the ground that they be publicly displayed in the national museums. The French government refused, until 1928, when his collection was taken by the Louvre museum.
 
Timeline
1848  -  Born in Paris
1872  -  Trains in the studio of Leon Bonnat
1874  -  Loses his father
1875  -  Completes "The Floor Planers" but it is rejected by the Paris Salon
1876  -  Joins the Impressionist group and begins exhibiting with them
1882  -  Settles in Petit-Gennevilliers
1894  -  Passes away of pulmonary congestion
 
Museums / Collections
Art Institute of Chicago
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Musee d'Orsay, Paris
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Brooklyn Museum
Cleveland Museum of Art
Fondation de l'Hermitage, Lausanne
Musee des Beaux-Arts de Rennes
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena
 
Books / Publications
"Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter's Eye" by Mary Morton and George Shackelford
"Gustave Caillebotte: Urban Impressionist" by Anne Distel
"Gustave Caillebotte" by Kirk Varnedoe
"Gustave Caillebotte: Masterpiece in Colour" by Maria Tsaneva
"Gustave Caillebotte: An Impressionist and Photography" by Karin Sagner and Max Hollein
"Caillebotte and His Garden at Yerres" by Pierre Wittmer
 
 

 

"L'homme au balcon, boulevard Haussmann," 1880

ART PRICES

LOT SOLD (1989 - 2008)

257

MAX PRICE

$13,000,000

AVG PRICE

$3,452,140

TOTAL SALES (1989 - 2008)

$62,138,535

 Portrait de Paul Hugot by Gustave Caillebotte

Gustave Caillebotte

Portrait de Paul Hugot

Ader, Paris

May 19, 2016

$9,522  USD

 Prairie au Pont d'Argenteuil by Gustave Caillebotte

Gustave Caillebotte

Prairie au Pont d'Argenteuil

Christie's, New York

May 13, 2016

$221,000  USD

 Bouquet De Roses Dans Un Vase De Cristal by Gustave Caillebotte

Gustave Caillebotte

Bouquet De Roses Dans Un Vase De Cristal

Sotheby's, New York

May 10, 2016

$490,000  USD

NEWS

Datebook: ‘Master Drawings Unveiled’ at the Art Institute of Chicago

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | August 13, 2016

Top Auction Houses of 2016: Europe

By Art+Auction | August 9, 2016

Impressionists Offer Visions of Normandy at Jacquemart André Paris

By Nathalie Mandel | March 26, 2016

A Solid Showing at Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale

By Judd Tully | November 6, 2015

The Proto-Feminist Parisienne? "Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity" Opens at the Met

By Chloe Wyma | March 12, 2013

Christie's Limp $205-Million Sale Prompts Talk of "A Crack in the Market"

By Judd Tully | November 8, 2012

SLIDESHOWS

Datebook: ‘Master Drawings Unveiled’ at the AIC

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | August 3, 2016

Caillebotte, Painter and Gardener

By Nicholas Forrest | July 19, 2016

Caillebotte at Giverny Musée des Impressionnismes

By Nathalie Mandel | March 29, 2016

Impressionists Bring Normandy to Jacquemart André

By Nathalie Mandel | March 24, 2016

Architecture of Life at BAMPFA

By Julie Lasky | March 21, 2016