The first major showing of the work of the French Impressionist Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) to be presented in New York in more than thirty years will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum
March 27 through July 5, 2009. In 1977, the Museum was a venue for the landmark exhibition that introduced the artist to the American public.
Gustave Caillebotte: Impressionist Paintings from Paris to the Sea presents the artist's well-known Parisian cityscapes alongside his painted scenes of outdoor life on the coast of Normandy and in the rural villages of Yerres and Petit Gennevilliers, where he and his family maintained estates. The exhibition will explore for the first time how these paintings express Caillebotte's passion for subjects in which water plays a central role--as an enigmatic magical element reflecting its surroundings; as an essential atmospheric ingredient; and as a scene for sporting activities. Caillebotte approached his motifs with the trained eye and hand of an accomplished rower, yachtsman, and engineer.
While The Floor Scrapers (1875), The Pont de l'Europe (sketch; 1876), and House Painters (1877) reveal the artist's fascination with Parisian subject matter--from the streets of the French capital to the labors of a growing urban working class--Skiffs on the Yerres (1877) demonstrates the artist's interest in light, water, and reflection (principal ingredients of Impressionism), as well as the physical activity and camaraderie of the boaters. Regattas at Villers (1880) captures the atmosphere Caillebotte experienced as a painter and as an avid competitive sailor. Two paintings from the Brooklyn Museum's collection, The Seine and the Railway Bridge at Argenteuil (1885-87) and Apple Tree in Bloom (circa 1885), disclose the artist's interest in the juxtaposition of the built and natural worlds. The exhibition brings these works together with approximately thirty other paintings-primarily from private collections, where most of Caillebotte's works are located, and from international museums--along with drawings, photographs, and models for the construction of the sailboats he owned and designed.
Born into a family of wealth and privilege, Caillebotte was trained as a lawyer and engineer. Following his military service during the Franco-Prussian War, he studied painting at the studio of the academic artist Léon Bonnat. Despite this traditional artistic training, Caillebotte embraced more innovative idioms and exhibited alongside the Impressionists at their groundbreaking exhibitions of the 1870s and 1880s. A key member of the Impressionist circle, he was also a patron of the arts and supported his colleagues and friends financially and collected an impressive body of works by such artists as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Alfred Sisley, and Camille Pissarro.
Gustave Caillebotte: Impressionist Paintings from Paris to the Sea was organized by Ordupgaard, Copenhagen, and the Kunsthalle Bremen. The Brooklyn Museum's presentation is coordinated by Judith F. Dolkart, Associate Curator of European Art. A full-color catalogue accompanies the exhibition.