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Gustave Caillebotte at the Museum Barberini

Gustave Caillebotte | Couple on a Walk, 1881 | Museum Barberini

In the 1860s the seaside resorts in Normandy became the most popular summer retreats of the Parisian bourgeoisie. Here a young couple (likely the artist and his partner, Charlotte Berthier) are strolling past the luxurious Villa italiennein Trouville.
The red parasol adds an accent to the picture, in which fresh green tones are dominant. The depiction of the figures from behind allows viewers to put themselves in the role of the vacationers.

Every summer from 1880-1884, Gustave Caillebotte spent a number of weeks in Normandy, where he sailed in regattas and painted.
During this time he produced around fifty depictions of the area surrounding Trouville, a beach resort that had grown into a favorite holiday destination of the Parisian upper classes since the mid-nineteenth century.

While his older colleagues Eugène Boudin and Claude Monet had focused on the beach promenade in their scenes from Trouville, Caillebotte was more interested in the inland landscape. Couple on a Walk was executed in 1881 and shows two fashionably dressed strollers viewed from the rear.
The composition represents a transitional work between Caillebotte’s city views of Paris from the 1870s and the landscapes he would paint after moving to the Seine village of Le Petit-Gennevilliers in 1881.
The strong recession in depth established by the diagonal line of the villa on the left and the triangular composition of the sun-dappled path echoes the dynamic visual axes Caillebotte had already developed in his city scenes.
The unusual perspective in which the path seems almost folded upward had likewise emerged as a trademark feature of his work by the early 1880s.
With its loose brushwork and ephemeral quality, the picture shows a stronger stylistic connection to the landscapes of Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Alfred Sisley, works that would prove decisive for the evolution of Caillebotte’s career. The soft reddish tones of the Italian villa and the fashionable scarlet parasol to the right set powerful accents in a composition that is otherwise dominated by fresh hues of green.

The identity of the couple strolling together at a respectable distance from each other is unclear.
The young man, who wears typical rowing clothes with a straw hat, could be Caillebotte himself or his brother Martial, with whom he usually spent the summer holidays near Trouville. The woman could be Caillebotte’s longtime companion Charlotte Berthier.
The view from the rear and the ambiguous relationship between the two protagonists lend the composition a psychological tension that also characterizes many of Caillebotte’s interiors.
When he showed the painting in the Seventh Impressionist Exhibition in Paris in 1882, it attracted considerable attention for its free painterly style and substantial size. | © Museum Barberini

Gustave Caillebotte | Rue Halevy View from the Sixth Floor, 1878 | Museum Barberini

The view from a mansard window shows a street in the center of Paris. The Opéra Garnier can be identified only by its golden crowing figures. Two years later Caillebotte moved into an apartment in the block of buildings on the right.
In many of his Parisian city scenes, Gustave Caillebotte focused on the window as a psychological threshold - a visual boundary between the private, protected space of the bourgeois interior and the anonymous world of the street. Here, the viewer’s location on the balcony makes the urban panorama the sole subject of the painting.
The unusually high vantage point creates a visual pull into depth, further intensified by the steeply angled window frame to the left - the only element connected to the interior space behind it.

The center of the composition is dominated by the vertical ascent of the Rue Halévy toward the Opéra Garnier. Rendered as a flat, light-colored form in thick brushstrokes, the street is punctuated only by the blurred figures of pedestrians and carriages.
Both the perspective and the haziness of the image recall Claude Monet’s painting Boulevard des Capucines (1873-74, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City), which Caillebotte certainly knew and had possibly already seen at the first Impressionist Exhibition in 1874.
Despite the looseness of the brushwork, Caillebotte clearly articulated the architectural details of the Haussmannian façades. The reduced color scheme with its striking blue-violet accents intensifies the sketch-like quality of the painting, which Caillebotte submitted to the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition in 1879.
The piece is related to another work from the following year, Rue Halévy, View from a Balcony. Caillebotte painted both images looking out from a building on Rue La Fayette with a direct view of the Opéra Garnier. In both, the urban topography can be identified by means of the golden sculpture on the roof of the opera house, which was completed in 1875.| © Museum Barberini

Gustave Caillebotte | Avenue of the Villa des Fleurs in Trouville, 1883 | Museum Barberini

Even when he was on vacation, the painter remained a flaneur who recorded chance observations and meetings. Here he is approached by a black-clad cleaning woman who is carrying a basket with difficulty.
She is moving away from the sea, which can be made out in the distance.
The realistic portrayal of sunlight was indebted to the studies en plein air that Gustave Caillebotte had executed alongside Pierre-Auguste Renoir during the previous summer.
In many of his paintings of Trouville, Honfleur, and Villers-sur-Mer from the early 1880s, Gustave Caillebotte depicted the surroundings of the elegant villas where members of the wealthy Parisian upper class would lodge during the summer months.

Unlike many of his Impressionist colleagues, Caillebotte could identify with this social class, since he came from a rich family and was financially independent.
Along with his brother Martial, who was also an avid sailor, Caillebotte repeatedly spent extended holidays on the Normandy coast, where the two participated in regattas and moved in fashionable circles.
Caillebotte painted this work in 1883 and presented it as a wedding gift to his friend Edmond Badufle who, like Caillebotte and his brother, belonged to the exclusive sailing club Cercle de la Voile de Paris.
With its fresh, glowing colors and impasto brushwork, the work shows stylistic parallels to the landscapes Caillebotte painted in the early 1880s near the Seine villages of Argenteuil and Le Petit-Gennevilliers.
While the richly faceted play of light and shadow along the tree-lined road recalls works by Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, the strong perspective and slight accentuation of the central visual axis are typical of Caillebotte’s dynamic approach to space.
As in Couple on a Walk from two years earlier, here too Caillebotte uses glowing red accents to attract the viewer’s gaze in a composition otherwise dominated by green.
For many years this picture was unknown, and thus was not included in the catalogue raisonné of Caillebotte’s paintings compiled by Marie Berhaut and published in 1994.
The authenticity of the work, which belonged to the private collection of Badufle and his heirs for over a hundred years, has been confirmed by the Comité Caillebotte.| © Museum Barberini

Gustave Caillebotte | The Argenteuil Bridge and the Seine, 1883 | Museum Barberini

With its massive cast-iron arches, the Argenteuil Bridge, rebuilt after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71, was an impressive testament to French engineering.
In a bold composition, Gustave Caillebotte focused on the interaction of nature and technology. Argenteuil, a place of industrialization and yachting near Paris, offered many Impressionists iconic modernist motifs.

In 1881, Gustave Caillebotte moved to Le Petit-Gennevilliers, a hamlet on the Seine adjoining the Parisian suburb of Argenteuil, where Claude Monet had lived from 1871-1878.
For the enthusiastic water sports enthusiast, the leisure location known for its boat trips and sailing regattas offered stimulating motifs.
In many of his depictions, Caillebotte explored views that Monet and other Impressionist colleagues had explored before him.
Among them was the imposing pedestrian bridge, which went back to a design from 1830/31 and was extensively repaired after the destruction in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71.

Unlike Monet in his work in 1874 Seine Bridge from Argenteuil (Neue Pinakothek, Munich), Caillebotte opted for an unusual close-up and bottom view when realizing the motif, in which he only focused on one of the seven elegantly curved iron bridge arches.
The omission of the stone pillar on the right side creates an impression of openness, which is counteracted by the demarcation of the upper half of the picture by the dark metal structure.
Behind the railing, the sky is only visible as a narrow blue stripe, negating the usual division of the landscape image into clearly defined zones of foreground, middle ground and background with the corresponding spatial depth.
This striking perspective, reminiscent of a photographic snapshot, as well as the thematic focus on a testament to impressive engineering, are reminiscent of Caillebotte's depictions of modern industrial architecture in Paris's Quartier de l'Europe, which he produced towards the end of the 1870s.
But while pictures likeon the pont en l'Europe (1876/77, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth) still followed the fine painterly, smooth execution of the academic tradition,
The Bridge of Argenteuil and the Seine is rendered in the shimmering, luminous dabs of color and dynamic brushwork of Impressionism.
The ingenious play of shadow and light and the many overlaps of colored reflections on the water's surface indicate the influence of colleagues such as Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir and their interest in depicting the momentary.
A few months after Caillebotte's death in February 1894, the Paris gallery owner Paul Durand-Ruel organized a retrospective of 122 of the artist's paintings, including The Bridge at Argenteuil and the Seine. | © Museum Barberini

Gustave Caillebotte | Rue Halevy View from a Balcony, 1877 | Museum Barberini

Gustave Caillebotte featured the impressive apartment buildings around the Paris Opera in three paintings. From this perspective, the balcony plants block the view, compelling the beholder to look more closely. The cold, hazy morning light is combined with the silver-gray of the zinc roofs to produce a symphony in shades of blue-violet.

During the so-called Second Empire (1852–70), the reign of Napoleon III, the city of Paris underwent profound changes. Under the direction of Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, prefect of the Seine, the core of the old city with its narrow medieval streets was replaced by a network of wide boulevards and avenues.
The lavish construction of numerous city squares, gardens, and parks brought air and light into the metropolis. Everywhere, this newfound spaciousness offered room for leisure activities and recreation.
Countless bars, cafés, theaters, and department stores endowed the modernized capital city with an opulence that was likewise expressed in the unified streetscapes and painstakingly restored historical monuments.

By 1870 Paris was considered the most advanced metropolis in the world and the unrivalled center of modern painting.
Like many of his colleagues, Gustave Caillebotte was fascinated by the results of “Haussmannization” and documented it in numerous compositions.
At the invitation of his painter friends Henri Rouart and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, he had participated in the second Impressionist exhibition of 1876, thereby joining the movement that had grown up around Claude Monet in the early 1860s.
A year later, he attracted public attention with his important large-scale painting Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877, The Art Institute of Chicago) - a monumental, seemingly photorealistic view of the new Paris in which the artist adopted the vantage point of a passerby on the street.
The painting Rue Halévy, View from a Balcony, created the same year, belongs to a series of works in which the city center of Paris is viewed from a dramatic height. For this composition, Caillebotte positioned his easel on the top story of a building on the Rue La Fayette.
The opera house built by Charles Garnier appears in the distance, identified by the golden sculptures in the upper half of the picture. In the foreground, the luxuriant green foliage of the balcony plants serves as a repoussoir and contrasts starkly with the violet-colored haze enveloping the grand buildings along the boulevard.
The houses in the foreground show Haussmann’s typical design with their symmetrical, cream-colored sandstone façades, while the rest of the buildings merge into near flatness - an effect indicative of the influence of colored Japanese woodcuts.
In contrast to Paris Street; Rainy Day, there are no anecdotal details; instead, Caillebotte omitted narrative elements in favor of an atmospheric image reminiscent of a stage set.
Even after joining the Impressionists in 1876, the artist still frequently painted in an academic manner; here, however, the loose brushwork and abstract approach resemble the work of Monet.
Rue Halévy, View from a Balcony is not listed in the catalogue raisonné of Caillebotte’s paintings compiled by Marie Berhaut. Although it is signed and dated, it may have been a study.
The work is directly related to two other city views painted from the same rooms and listed in the catalogue as nos. 99 and 100.
The authenticity of this painting has been confirmed by the Comité Caillebotte. | © Museum Barberini

Gustave Caillebotte | Lilacs and Peonies in Two Vases, 1883 | Museum Barberini

In 1881 Gustave Caillebotte purchased a country house in the Seine village of Le Petit-Gennevilliers, across from Argenteuil. There he set up a flower garden with a greenhouse for orchids.
He exchanged ideas about horticulture with Monet, who was also a passionate gardener.
Inspired by his example, Caillebotte painted twenty-five still lifes with flowers from his garden.

Gustave Caillebotte’s involvement with the Impressionists from the spring of 1876 on was important not only for his artistic contribution to the movement. The affluent Caillebotte also served as a collector and patron and assisted many of his colleagues with regular financial support.
Unlike his Impressionist allies, he was not dependent on art for his income and made few efforts to market his work.
In his will, Caillebotte bequeathed around sixty Impressionist works from his collection to the French state, including paintings by Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley.
Around forty of these were accepted as a bequest in February 1896 and were exhibited a year later in the Musée du Luxembourg in the Salle Caillebotte. The artist had named Renoir as the executor of his will.

One of the two still lifes in Caillebotte’s possession was a work by Monet: Red Chrysanthemums (1880, private collection), which the artist had shown at the Seventh Impressionist Exhibition in Paris in 1882.
Under Monet’s influence, Caillebotte painted a number of flower still lifes beginning the following year and used them to decorate the living spaces of his stately house at Le Petit-Gennevilliers.
The choice of motif was informed by his passion for gardening, an activity to which Caillebotte devoted himself to in the 1880s and 1890s with as much enthusiasm as Monet at Giverny. The two painters maintained a lively correspondence, offering each other advice on gardening and botany.
In this still life, the interior space is indicated only schematically, and the colorful patterned tablecloth appears as an abstract tangle of broad, impasto brushstrokes.
The turquoise-colored vase in the foreground, on the other hand, is more carefully modeled and its smooth texture evoked through a finer application of paint.
Caillebotte used vibrating tones of white, pink, and violet to capture the lilacs and peonies, whose luxuriant volume dominates the picture space. | © Museum Barberini