Artistgifts Article About Artist Gustave Caillebotte

Just who is Gustave Caillebotte? Gustave Caillebotte (19 August 1848 – 21 February 1894) was a French painter, member and patron of the artists known as Impressionists, although he painted in a much more realistic manner than many others in the group. He is best known for his paintings of urban Paris, such as The Europe Bridge (1876), and Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877) which with it’s flat colors and perspective reflected his interest in photography as an art form.

Caillebotte was born to an upper-class Parisian family; his father having inherited the family's military textile business. Beginning in 1860, the Caillebotte family began spending many of their summers in Yerres, a town on the Yerres River about 12 miles south of Paris, where they had a large property. It was about this time Caillebotte began to draw and paint. He attended college and became an engineer and earned a law degree in 1868, acquiring a license to practice law in 1870. Shortly after, he was drafted to fight in the Franco-Prussian war.

After the war, Caillebotte began visiting the studio of painter Léon Bonnat, where he began to study painting seriously. He developed an accomplished style in a relatively short time and had his first studio in his parents' home. In 1873, Caillebotte entered the École des Beaux-Arts. A year later he inherited his father's fortune and he and his surviving brothers divided it after their mother's death in 1878.

Around 1874, Caillebotte met and befriended several artists working outside the Académie des Beaux-Arts, including Edgar Degas and he attended the first Impressionist exhibition of 1874. For many years and in part because he never had to sell his work to support himself, Caillebotte's reputation as an artist was overshadowed by his recognition as a supporter of the arts. He assisted his friends and fellow artists Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, and Camille Pissarro among others with financial help and by purchasing their works. He was especially helpful to Monet’s career and financial survival; he purchased his first Monet in 1875 and had 14 Monet paintings in his collection at his time of death.

Caillebotte's stopped showing his work about 1883 and his painting career slowed dramatically in the early 1890s, when he stopped making large canvases. He died of pulmonary congestion while working in his garden at Petit-Gennevilliers in 1894 at age 45. Because he never married, Caillebotte bequeathed a large collection of his art to the French government. This collection included sixty-eight paintings by various artists: Camille Pissarro (nineteen), Claude Monet (fourteen), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (ten), Alfred Sisley (nine), Edgar Degas (seven), Paul Cézanne (five), and Édouard Manet (four). Being impressionistic works, which were still not widely accepted, a condition of his donation required that the paintings be displayed in public. In February 1896, they finally negotiated terms with Renoir, the executor of his will, and they took thirty-eight of the paintings to the Luxembourg Palace. This installation was the first presentation of the Impressionists in a public venue in France and greatly supported the Impressionistic movement.

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