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  • Gustave Caillebotte
    Aug 19, 1848 – Feb 21, 1894
  • Sailboats in Argenteuil - Gustave Caillebotte was a French painter, member and patron of the group of artists known as Impressionists, though he painted in a much more realistic manner than many other artists in the group. His great concern for a realistic painting, his colored notes, and his treatment of light make him well a great Impressionist painter whose work is original and diverse.
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Sailboats in Argenteuil
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  • Sailboats in Argenteuil

  • Gustave Caillebotte
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  • circa 1888
    Oil on canvas
    Musée d'Orsay, France.

    Caillebotte was passionate about sailing. From 1879 onwards, he won regattas on the Seine and attracted attention for his luxurious and innovative boats. At the end of his life, he even, went on to become a renowned yacht builder, his passion for boats having won out over painting. In 1881, he bought a house in Petit-Gennevilliers, across the Seine from Argenteuil, where the elegant yacht club, the Cercle de la Voile de Paris, had its moorings. Shortly afterwards, this house became his main residence.

    He therefore naturally began to paint "boaters" and sailing boats. His view was of course influenced by Monet who, having moved to Argenteuil in 1871, made the sailing boats on the Seine one of his preferred motifs. Manet, Renoir and Sisley had also tackled this theme extensively. So Caillebotte seemed old-fashioned, or certainly lagging behind the times, when he exhibited views of boats on the Seine in 1888. But the fact remains that some of these paintings, such as this one, are very successful in the balance of composition and the quality of the light he conjures up.

    In this painting we see the flotilla of pleasure boats moored downstream from the old wooden bridge at Argenteuil. Behind the arches we can make out the supports of the railway bridge and the hills of Sannois and Orgemont. Painted rapidly, and probably from life, this painting, depicting the shimmering reflections of the river, is nonetheless well structured using strong, horizontal and vertical lines (the bridge and the masts). These are immediately countered by subtle obliques (the landing stage and sails) that give rhythm to the composition. The pictorial surface is heavily worked with broad, closely juxtaposed brushstrokes, very different from the more fluid effects of Monet and Renoir.

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Other paintings by Gustave Caillebotte:

Perissoires (The Canoes)
Perissoires (The Canoes)
The Yerres, Rain
The Yerres, Rain
Calf's Head and Ox Tongue
Calf's Head and Ox Tongue
Gustave CaillebotteGustave Caillebotte was born in 1848 to a wealthy family who had made their money in textiles and real estate during the redevelopment of Paris in the 1860s.

In 1875, wishing to make his public debut, he submitted a painting to the Salon jury, which rejected it. That work was probably the Floorscrapers, which Caillebotte then decided to exhibit in a more hospitable environment, that of the second Impressionist group exhibition of 1876. His work, highly acclaimed, stole the show and helped to make the second exhibition far more of a popular success than the first.

Wealthy and generous, Caillebotte financially supported his Impressionist friends by purchasing their works at inflated prices and underwriting many of the expenses encurred for the exhibitions.

Caillebotte was a painter of great originality. Like the Impressionists, Caillebotte pursued an instant of vision, recording it with a fullness of truthful detail. Caillebotte, however, attempted to portray the rhythms of an industrial society with his regimented figures and the clock-like precision of his Paris. In this aspect, he was very much like the Realists.

In 1876 he drew up a will providing money for an Impressionist exhibition to be held after his death, and bequeathing his collection of Impressionist paintings to the State. This bequest was made on the condition that the paintings should first be exhibited in the Luxembourg (the museum dedicated to the work of living artists), and later to the Louvre. He intended that the State should not hide the paintings away in an attic or provincial museum. His brother Martial along with Renoir were entrusted with making sure the provisions of his will were carried out.

Gustave Caillebotte died in 1894.