Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Gustave Caillebotte, Part 2

Yesterday you read about Gustave Caillebotte’s life. Today, his art.

Besides contributing money and time to develop Impressionism in France, Caillebotte became respected as a painter in his own right. Actually, he is among my favorites. I love The Floor Scrapers, shown above, and Paris Street, Rainy Day, shown below. The Floor Scrapers is part of the permanent collection of the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. (This is where I saw it and fell in love.) Paris Street, Rainy Day is part of the Art Institute of Chicago’s permanent collection (free admission in February!)
Influenced by photography, a new technology in the late-1800s, Caillebotte’s paintings are markedly realistic. Because a photo was a frozen moment that could be studied, photography allowed painters to see the way light fell and the way it affected subjects. Look at the way the pools of rain between the cobblestones shine in Paris Street, Rainy Day. Notice, also, that the bleached sky reflects on the slick stones themselves.

One other aspect of Caillebotte’s work that you should notice is the way the scenes often look tiled downward toward the viewer. Look again at Paris Street, Rainy Day and notice that the street seems to curve up. Look also at The Floor Scrapers for another example. Most of Caillebotte’s work is like this. Below is a third example of tilted perspective, Sculls.

EDITED: I have corrected the main text of this post. The Floor Scrapers is not on display at the Phillips Collection. I was mistaken. They are showing Small Branch of the Seine at Argenteuil which is also a great painting by Caillebotte and a fantastic example of the way he painted the effects of light. I still recommend checking out the exhibit, Degas to Diebenkorn!

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