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Caillebotte and the "pont de l'Europe"

In 1876, Gustave Caillebotte undertook to paint the Pont de l'Europe, which spans the tracks of the Saint Lazare station and connects the rue de Rome and the rue d'Amsterdam via the rue de Liège, in Paris. Presented at the third Impressionist exhibition in 1877, this painting, currently at the Musée du Petit-Palais in Geneva, has been the subject of several preparatory studies, one at the Musée des Beaux Arts in Rennes, the other at the AKG Buffalo Art Museum - USA.

Gustave Caillebotte - le Pont de l'Europe. 1876. Musée du Petit-Palais. Genève
Gustave Caillebotte - le Pont de l'Europe. 1876. Musée du Petit-Palais. Genève

The canvas was painted by Gustave Caillebotte two years after the death of his father Martial and the same year of the death of his 26-year-old younger brother, René, which traumatized him. We can link the style to the realist period of the painter, with a subject treated in a smooth style, reminiscent of that of Édouard Manet. The eye is irresistibly drawn towards the Haussmannian buildings at the back of the painting by powerful X-shaped vanishing lines, underlined by the trellis of the iron beams of the bridge and the railing on which a worker is leaning. The dog passes in front of the latter, ignoring him, and guides the viewer's eye towards the bourgeois couple who are coming from the opposite direction.

Gustave Caillebotte. Etude pour le Pont de l'Europe. 1876. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rennes.
Gustave Caillebotte. Etude pour le Pont de l'Europe. 1876. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rennes.

The Pont de l'Europe was the subject of several preparatory studies, most likely carried out with the aid of a photograph. The most allusive, almost monochrome, is that of the Museum of Fine Arts in Rennes. The general structure of the painting is already present, as well as the worker in the foreground.

Gustave Caillebotte. Etude pour le Pont de l'Europe. 1876 . Buffalo AKG Art Museum
Gustave Caillebotte. Etude pour le Pont de l'Europe. 1876 . Buffalo AKG Art Museum

The study kept at the AKG Museum in Buffalo is more complete, with the main characters who have found their place. Note the absence of the dog and the furthest character, leaning, also on the railing, and which will give way to a back walker, on the final painting.


Dans ses conférences d'Art et d'Histoire, Fabrice Roy conjugue le passé au présent, dans une évocation poétique et ludique du 19ème siècle français...




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