The Biography and Art work of Gustave Caillebotte

Caillebotte began his career as a landscape painter but soon expressed an interest in Impressionism.

Gustave Caillebotte (Epron Jean-François Gustave, 1848–1894) was a French painter and a member of the circle of painters identified as the Impressionists. He is famous for his paintings featuring urban scenes of Paris, especially scenes of the lively, colorful markets which were omnipresent in Paris during his lifetime.

Early life of Gustave Caillebotte

On August 19, 1848, Caillebotte was born to an upper-class Parisian family living in the rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis. His father, Martial Caillebotte (1799–1874), was the inheritor of the family's military textile business and a judge at the Seine departments Tribunal de commerce.

Caillebotte's father was twice widowed before marrying Céleste Daufresne (1825–1893), who had two more sons after Gustave, Rene (1851–1931) and Martial (1853–1910). The family lived in the spice-trade-related Rue du Caire.

Gustave Caillebotte began his schooling at home before attending the Lycée Michelet from 1854 to 1857. He began studying law but found this boring, so he took up painting with some coaching from two academic painters, Louis Lamothe (fr) and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes.

In October 1859, Caillebotte entered the Le Havre secondary school of the arts. Locals knew him well for his charcoal caricatures which he sold for ten to twenty francs. He then began studying architecture under Jean-Jules André, but after meeting with the painter Charles-François Daubigny, Caillebotte switched to studying at the École des Beaux-Arts in October 1862.

Career of Gustave Caillebotte

Caillebotte began his career as a landscape painter but soon expressed an interest in Impressionism. He was one of the first friends (and critics) of Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, and the other artists who constituted "the group" or "the bande à Renoir" - a clique of Parisian avant-garde painters which included Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frédéric Bazille, Jean Metzinger, Alfred Sisley, and others.

He was influenced by the Impressionists, especially Monet and Morisot, but his work in the 1860s and 1870s was closer to classical Academic painting than to his contemporaries - though he did exhibit with them in Paris (from 1874) and in the country in 1886 and 1887 Impressionist exhibitions.

In 1875, he joined the 1st Regiment of Zouaves as a sapper but quickly tired of military life, which many artists from his circle also sought refuge from. Caillebotte earned spending money by designing theater sets and decorating cabaret interiors.

In 1878, Caillebotte entered the Société des Artistes Indépendants and participated in six of their Salons until 1886. In 1888, he exhibited eight paintings with Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and other Impressionists.

In 1884, Caillebotte acquired a mansion in Yerres on the banks of the river Yvette between Paris and Versailles. He spent much time there with his mother and brother Martial as well as with his friends, including Camille Pissarro.

In 1892, along with Monet, Manet, Morisot, Sisley, and others, he was invited to the Twickenham Studio of a wealthy American art collector named Alexander Reid. Caillebotte produced a considerable number of masterpieces there and acquired the nickname "the banker artist."

The Artwork of Gustave Caillebotte

Caillebotte painted mainly scenes of Parisian life: his four largest canvases represented the citizens of Paris in a fashion similar to Jacques-Louis David's epic depictions (1799–1825) and Gustave Courbet's paintings (1819–77). His urban scenes of the late 1860s and early 1870s placed figures in a bright setting surrounded with bold contrasts of light and shadow.

In 1876 Caillebotte painted one of his best-known works, "Paris Street, Rainy Day," which depicted a drenched couple walking down a street paved with cobblestones.

Paris Street; Rainy Day. Date:1877. Artist: Gustave Caillebotte (French, 1848-1894). The Art Institute of Chicago.

The painting was rejected for the Salon of 1877, but Caillebotte won a gold medal at the exposition in Amsterdam in 1882. He received a silver medal in Paris in 1883 and another gold medal at an exhibition in Brussels in 1885.

In 1889, Caillebotte painted "Portraits at the Stock Exchange," depicting a group of bourgeois Parisians crowded into the ornate lobby of the stock market.

He exhibited in London in 1890, and his works were included in several important international exhibitions, including the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

The Legacy of Gustave Caillebotte

In 1890, he moved to a mansion in Petit Gennevilliers on the Seine near Argenteuil. In 1892, he stopped participating in the Salon and took an interest in more traditional subjects.

He died on August 19, 1894, at 52 and was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. Caillebotte bequeathed his entire estate to the French government for the establishment of the Musée du Jeu de Paume

The museum opened in February 1897, just a few months after Caillebotte's death. It housed the artist's collection of Japanese and Chinese art and Impressionist paintings by Monet, Manet, Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro, Caillebotte, and Berthe Morisot.

Today the Musée du Jeu de Paume is one of the nine departments of the Musée d'Orsay. Caillebotte's impressive collection of Impressionist paintings remains intact at this museum. His other art collections are now housed at the Musée Marmottan Monet. His Paris house is preserved as the Musée Caillebotte in his honor.