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Gustave Caillebotte Gallery     Prints.     Full biography.
Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894)
Gustave Caillebotte's painting style belongs to the school of realism, although he helped organize the first Impressionist painting exhibition and was himself an enthusiastic collector of Impressionist works. He painted portraits and interior scenes, urban life, still lifes, and landscapes and seascapes. Forty of his works now hang in the Musee d'Orsay.
Rainy Day
Nude on a Couch
Canoe on the Yerres River
Europe Bridge


On the Europe Bridge 1876-77
Oil on canvas  
41-5/8 x 51-1/2 in. (105.7 x 130.8 cm)
Acquired in 1982

Caillebotte was the most important early patron of the so-called Impressionists: Cézanne, Degas, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, and Sisley. Indeed, they invited him to be in their second group exhibition in 1876, and later that same year he willed his controversial art collection to the French State. In 1896 forty paintings from Caillebotte's bequest went on view at the Musée du Luxembourg, thus legitimizing the status of Impressionism. Today these works form the nucleus of the Musée d'Orsay, Paris.
Although his closest artist friends were Monet and Renoir, the key advocates for loose brushwork and bright color, Caillebotte preferred the challenges dearest to Degas, such as uningratiating urban subjects and strictly limited visual means, orchestrated with meticulous, albeit conventional, draftsmanship. In most respects, however, Caillebotte was unconventional in the extreme. With a restricted, cool palette of blacks, blues, and grays, On the Europe Bridge looks rather like a giant snapshot, lacking such basic pictorial features as facial expression, gesture, a ground plane, compositional balance, or an unobstructed background view. The only narrative in this picture concerns people looking at something mostly hidden to viewers of the painting. Everything is fragmentary and obscured, with the result that abstract visual rhythms are stressed exclusively in a vigorously modern way.

The iron trellis in fact overlooks the Saint-Lazare train station, which was famously portrayed by Monet in a dozen paintings made in early 1877, and included at the third Impressionist exhibition that year. Did Caillebotte (who soon purchased three of Monet's variations) refrain from showing his masterful On the Europe Bridge at the same exhibition in order not to interfere with Monet's display?


Kimbell Art Museum
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