“The very great artists attach you even more to life.” ~Gustave Caillebotte
Born August 19, 1848, in Paris, France, Gustave Caillebotte (pronunciation) was part of an upper-class Parisian family. Most of his life was spent in France. He lived in a house in the city for most of the year, then over the summer he would travel with his family to a house in the country. It was here that Gustave found his love of art and took up painting the countryside.
He earned a law degree in 1868, but was later drafted to serve in the Franco-Prussian war between 1870 and 1871. After the war, he took up painting, and this art style saw great changes as he experimented with a variety of techniques. When he returned to France, however, Caillebotte abandoned these innovations and began to paint subjects from everyday life.
Early Style of Gustave Caillebotte
Caillebotte’s early style was strongly influenced by the realism of Honoré Daumier and the Barbizon school, as well as the large-scale historical paintings of Eugène Delacroix.
However, in his mid-twenties, he began to rebel against this traditional training and instead developed a more personal style which emphasized light, color, and surface patterning. This can be seen in works such as “The Floor Scrapers” (1875), in which Caillebotte used a high viewpoint to capture the rhythmical patterns created by the laborers’ movements.
The Success of Gustave Caillebotte
During the 1880’s Caillebotte achieved great critical and popular success with a series of large-scale urban landscapes. These paintings included “Paris Street; Rainy Day” (1877), “The Pont de l’Europe” (1876–77), and” Place de l’Europe, Afternoon Sunshine” (1881). These works are characterized by their accurate depiction of the cityscape and Caillebotte’s mastery of perspective. In addition to his urban scenes, Caillebotte also painted a number of rural landscapes.
Caillebotte died in 1894, but he will always be remembered as an important patron of the Impressionists, and his support was crucial to the success of their exhibitions. He also donated a large number of his own paintings to the state, which now forms the core of the collection at the Musée d’Orsay (pronunciation) in Paris. His work is noted for its technical mastery, its accurate depiction of contemporary life, and its strong sense of composition.