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Caillebotte yesterday and today

Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) was 29 years old when he painted this large-scale canvas (212 x 276 cm) on the occasion of the third Impressionist exhibition in April 1877. His point of view is located in Paris, on the current place of Dublin with, going up on the left, the Moscow street, in front, the Clapeyron street and on the right, behind the umbrella of the main character, the Turin street.

White Ships, 1908, watercolor over graphite, with gouache and wax resist, Brooklyn Museum
Gustave Caillebotte. Rue de Paris, temps de pluie. 1877. Art Institute of Chicago

The two main characters are a man in a top hat and bow tie whose arm is held by an elegant woman. Are they just walking around or going to a show, which their outfit might suggest? The rain, under an opaque and nevertheless luminous sky, makes the cobblestones shine on which a few bourgeois walk, alone or in pairs, in clothes as dark as their umbrellas. The point of view is audacious, the vanishing lines exacerbate the conquering Haussmannian architecture. On the right, a man will pass the couple, and everything suggests that a courteous battle of precedence linked to the dimensions of the umbrellas is going to take place.

Soldats espagnols, ch. 1903, aquarelle sur mine de plomb, avec gouache, Brooklyn Museum
Teleportation of the couple to contemporary times...

We find here the extreme meticulousness of Caillebotte, both in the sense of detail and in the accuracy of the location. When the characters are made to make a jump in time, all the proportions are respected....

In 1880, Emile Zola wrote: "Monsieur Caillebotte is a conscientious artist whose style is a little dry, but who has the courage to make great efforts and who seeks with the most virile resolution..."

In his art history lectures, Fabrice Roy combines the past with the present, in a poetic and playful evocation of the French 19th century...


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