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Caillebotte’s Effect

22 Feb

Out of all the Impressionists, Caillbotte’s paintings evoke the spirit of the new modern Paris the most.

1877. Paris Street, Rainy Day - Gustave Caillebotte1877. Gustave Caillebotte Paris Street, Rainy Day, Art Institute of Chicago.

Gustave Caillebotte is nor the most famous of the Impressionists, nor the most interesting, nor the most scandalous one, but still some of the paintings he painted remain the best examples of the everyday life in Paris, and are influential even today. His paintings ‘Paris Street, Rainy Day‘ and ‘The Floor Scrapers‘ remain his most intriguing and most outstanding paintings.

Gustave Caillebotte was rich and rather pampered, having inherited the great fortune of his father which meant he was financially independent for the rest of his life. Painting was primary a hobby for him, as was photography later on. It was Edouard Degas who introduced him to the Impressionists, which were also called ‘Independents‘ and ‘Intransigents‘ at the time, having been aware of his money. He supported his fellow artists and became a sort of patron and a collector. Claude Monet, Renoir and Pissarro’s work held a special place in Caillebotte’s collection.

This painting, ‘Paris Street, Rainy Day‘ was painted in 1877. and it depicts the Place de Dublin, known in 1877. as the Carrefour de Moscou. On the first sight, the painting depicts a city scene, nothing unusual for the Impressionists, but it is the background information that makes this painting so special. The couple seen strolling around Paris on a rainy day are actually newly rich Parisians, members of the bourgeoisie. They’re enjoying themselves, strolling around and flaunting in a new, modern Paris which looks so bright, so fresh, so open and clean with those wide boulevards and broad streets. Caillebotte played with perspectives and purposefully presented Paris wider and higher than it really was, painting it in a wide angle. That’s the Caillebotte’s Effect’.

Still, Caillebotte’s figures appear cold and lifeless, mirroring the alienating mood of the city.