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 Gustave Caillebotte  (1848 - 1894)

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Lived/Active: France      Known for: impressionist portrait and landscape painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Gustave Caillebotte was born in Paris on August 19, 1848.  He was best known as a generous patron of the French Impressionists, but he was a gifted artist as well. He earned a law degree, but he also attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He then studied with a lesser-known teacher of painting, the Spanish-trained Leon Bonnat.  In 1874 he met Degas, Monet and Renoir and helped organize the first impressionist exhibition in Paris the same year.  And he came into his inheritance when his father died about that same time.

Actually Caillebotte was a fabulouly wealthy man whose work was not seen for years because he had no need to sell it, or even have a dealer.  In fact, he was a purchaser of art on a grand scale, the greatest patron of his friends and colleagues. He was actually largely responsible for his own obscurity.  He never married and he willed his own paintings to his brother Martial; the bulk of them have remained in the family's hands until the present day.

From 1876 to 1882 he took part in five of the exhibitions of the Impressionists.  His portraits and landscapes may have been influenced by Degas but his views of Paris and realistic scenes of working-class life are highly personal in expression.  In his will Caillebotte left his collection of sixty-five Impressionist works to the state, which rejected it.  After three years of negotiations and a campaign in the press, thirty-eight of the pictures were accepted.  It was not until 1928 that these works entered the Louvre.

By 1882, Caillebotte stopped exhibiting altogether.  He devoted increasing amounts of time to stamp collecting, and then to sailing and designing his own racing yachts.  He died in Gennevilliers, Seine on February 21, 1894.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources include:
Phaidon Encyclopedia of Art and Artists
Andrew Patner, The Unknown Impressionist, in Art and Antiques, April 1995
From the Internet, WebMuseum, Paris

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

At the time of his death, Caillebotte left his personal collection of impressionist paintings to the French State, with the provision that they ultimately be exhibited at the Louvre.  Pierre Renoir was named executor.  "The government considered the bequest a nuisance for the idea of displaying Impressionist works in a museum provoked a storm of protest from politicians, academicians and critics."

Jean Leon Gerome, then one of the most prominent art teachers at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, threatened to resign his position if the bequest was accepted.  Representing many of the other professors, he said:  "Does not the bequest contain paintings by M. Monet, by M. Pissarro and others?  For the government to accept such filth, there would have to be a great moral slackening." 

As a result, the government accepted only half of the Caillebotte collection, leaving behind "eleven Pissarros, eight Monets, three Sisley, three Cezannes, two Renoirs and a Manet."

Hilton Kramer, Editor, "The Turn of the Century, 1890-1913", Arts Yearbook I, p. 11

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