Editor's Choice

Gustave Callibotte:The Painter’s Eye

Caillebotte Exhibition Presents French Impressionist's Most Important and Provocative Paintings
Premieres at National Gallery of Art, Washington
June 28–October 4, 2015

Fifty of the most important and beloved paintings of Paris and its environs by impressionist Gustave Caillebotte (1848–1894) will be the focus of the first major U.S. retrospective of the artist's work in 20 years. On view in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, from June 28 through October 4, 2015, Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter's Eye will provide visitors with a better understanding of Caillebotte's artistic character and the complexity of his contribution to modernist painting.

Gustave Caillebotte
Roses, Garden at Petit Gennevilliers, 1886

oil on canvas
overall: 89 116 cm (35 1/16 45 11/16 in.)
Private Collection
© Comité Caillebotte, Paris

"Caillebotte's paintings were inaccessible for almost a century, and they are still hard to come by in public institutions. For those interested in his work, there is no place to go to get a deep or broad sense of his achievement. We are thrilled to present this exhibition and accompanying publication to a new generation of art lovers and those hungry for another peek at his best works," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art.

After Washington, Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter's Eye will be on view at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, from November 8, 2015, through February 14, 2016.

click the images below to enlarge.

Gustave Caillebotte (1848–1894)

Although Caillebotte is widely recognized as the painter of a small number of iconic works—particularly The Pont de l'Europe and Paris Street, Rainy Day—and sometimes given more credit as a collector and supporter of the arts, his breadth or depth as a critical impressionist artist is not generally known by the American public.

Caillebotte was a unique player in the impressionist movement and his work was out of public view for almost a century, remaining in private collections. Born into a wealthy Parisian upper middle-class family, Caillebotte obtained a law degree and was a veteran of the Franco-Prussian War. He joined Léon Bonnat's studio and passed the entrance exam for the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1873, but his participation was minimal.

Gustave Caillebotte
The Gennevilliers Plain, Group of Poplar Trees, 1884

oil on canvas
overall: 54 65 cm (21 1/4 25 9/16 in.)
framed: 73 83.5 6.5 cm (28 3/4 32 7/8 2 9/16 in.)
Private Collection

Gustave Caillebotte
Man on a Balcony, Boulevard Haussmann, 1880

oil on canvas
overall: 116.5 89.5 cm (45 7/8 35 1/4 in.)
Private Collection Courtesy of Christie’s
Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY

He was attracted by the innovative spirit of the artists who were to become known as the impressionists. Originally invited by Edgar Degas to participate in the first impressionist exhibition in 1874, Caillebotte did not join the group until 1876, at Auguste Renoir's invitation. Caillebotte was one of the regular participants in the group's exhibitions (1877, 1879, 1880, and 1882), and he organized the 1877 presentation. Having inherited a large fortune from his parents, Caillebotte had no need to sell his own paintings and could focus on collecting the work of his artist-friends instead.

Caillebotte died young and his bequest left a collection of 69 impressionist masterpieces to the French government. The will was contested by his heirs, a compromise was reached, and 38 impressionist masterpieces were accessioned by the government and currently reside at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. The rest of his paintings—more than 400 works—remain in the collection of his family.

Gustave Caillebotte
The Floor Scrapers, 1875

oil on canvas
overall: 102 147 cm (40 3/16 57 7/8 in.)
Musée d'Orsay, Paris, Gift of Caillebotte's heirs through the intermediary of Auguste Renoir, 1894

Exhibition Highlights

From spectacular images of the new public spaces designed under Napoleon III by his prefect Baron Haussmann to visual meditations on leisure-time activities in and around Paris, the works presented will be lent by private collections and a small number of institutions in Europe and the United States.

Organized thematically, the exhibition showcases Caillebotte's fascination with the contemporary lifestyle of the Parisian bourgeoisie, from depictions of interior life, portraits, and still lifes,to urban street views and idyllic river scenes. Many of the works on view were completed between 1875 and 1885, the period in which Caillebotte was most involved with the impressionist movement.

Caillebotte sought to depict contemporary home life in the French capital, such as interior vantage points and views from the inside looking out. The exhibition opens with scenes of work and play set in bourgeois interiors, including A Game of Bezique (1881, Louvre, Abu Dhabi), Young Man Playing the Piano (1876, Bridgestone Museum of Art), and his first important painting The Floor Scrapers (1875, Musée d'Orsay). Views from balconies of the new buildings that were part of Haussmann's building project were of particular interest to Caillebotte, including The Rue Halévy, Seen from a Balcony (1878, Joan and Bernard Carl), a completely exterior view, and Interior, Woman at the Window (1880, Private Collection), a view from inside an apartment looking out.

Street views of Paris as revitalized by Haussmann are Caillebotte's most renowned works, including Paris Street, Rainy Day (1877, The Art Institute of Chicago) and The Pont de l'Europe (1876, Petit Palais, Geneva), both of which were included at the impressionist exhibition of 1877.

Gustave Caillebotte
Self-Portrait, 1888-1889

oil on canvas
overall: 55 46 cm (21 5/8 18 1/8 in.)
Private Collection

"Caillebotte grew up in the destruction/construction zone of the 8th arrondissement in Paris, one of the new neighborhoods built during Napoleon III's massive urban renewal project of the 1850s and 1860s. His response to the modern city was quite personal and there is something in his aesthetic that speaks directly to 21st-century urban dwellers," said Mary Morton, exhibition curator and head of French paintings, National Gallery of Art.

Two of Caillebotte's most provocative works—Man at His Bath (1884, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) and Nude on a Couch (1880, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts)—will be on view alongside individual portraits of the artist's friends, such as Portrait of Eugéne Daufresne (1878, Private Collection) and Portrait of Richard Gallo (1881, Private Collection). Two rarely seen self-portraits from private collections are also included.

Caillebotte's still-life paintings are potentially the most revelatory to visitors, from traditional images of dead birds and game (Game Birds and Lemons, 1883, Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield), to decorated foodstuffs (Calf in a Butcher's Shop, c. 1882, Private Collection) and commercial food presentations (Fruit Displayed on a Stand, c. 1881–1882, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). The exhibition concludes with a section on suburban pleasures. River scenes and landscape views—popular themes of the impressionists—include The Yerres, Effect of Rain (1875, Indiana University Art Museum) and Sunflowers, Garden at Petit Gennevilliers (c. 1885, Private Collection).

Exhibition Organization and Support

The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth.

The exhibition is made possible through the leadership support of the Leonard and Elaine Silverstein Family Foundation. The Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation also provided generous support. It is also supported by Count and Countess de La Haye St. Hilaire.

The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

The National Gallery of Art and its Sculpture Garden are at all times free to the public. They are located on the National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets at Constitution Avenue NW, and are open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The Gallery is closed on December 25 and January 1. With the exception of the atrium and library, the galleries in the East Building will remain closed until late fall 2016 for Master Facilities Plan and renovations. For information call (202) 737-4215 or visit the Gallery's Web site at www.nga.gov. Follow the Gallery on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NationalGalleryofArt, Twitter at www.twitter.com/ngadc, and Instagram at http://instagram.com/ngadc.

Visitors will be asked to present all carried items for inspection upon entering. Checkrooms are free of charge and located at each entrance. Luggage and other oversized bags must be presented at the 4th Street entrances to the East or West Building to permit x-ray screening and must be deposited in the checkrooms at those entrances. For the safety of visitors and the works of art, nothing may be carried into the Gallery on a visitor's back. Any bag or other items that cannot be carried reasonably and safely in some other manner must be left in the checkrooms. Items larger than 17 by 26 inches cannot be accepted by the Gallery or its checkrooms.

Cover image:

Gustave Caillebotte
Interior, Woman at the Window, 1880

oil on canvas
overall: 116 89 cm (45 11/16 35 1/16 in.)
Private Collection