Gustave Caillebotte has always been discreet about his love life. He never married and had no children, unlike his brother Martial, who married Marie Minoret in 1887. The latter, with a very accomplished religious education, refused to see Gustave when she learned that he lives a kind of concubinage with a certain Anne-Marie Hagen, also known as Charlotte Berthier.
Charlotte, who can be seen in this painting taking care of the Petit-Gennevilliers rose garden, is 23 years old. She is therefore 15 years younger than Gustave and they will live together for 11 years until the painter's death in 1894. Charlotte will manage the stewardship of the property where Gustave settles definitively from 1888. The liaison of Charlotte and Gustave is attested from 1883, while he still lives with his brother Martial at 31 boulevard Hausmann in Paris.
A letter written by Gustave Caillebotte to Claude Monet to inform him that he would go to see him in Etretat expressly mentions the young woman:
" My dear friend
Charlotte has been in bed for a few days, so I've postponed my trip until next week. I hope it will get up in 2 or 3 days and I intend to go see you in Etretat if you are still there next Wednesday by the morning train 8h and a few minutes.
Gustave never made a portrait of Charlotte, and her brother Martial never photographed her. On the other hand, the friend Renoir painted her, also in 1883. Graceful, with some curves, Charlotte strikes a pose with the same little dog on her knees. her gaze reveals a great sweetness tinged with nostalgia. We know very little about the young woman, we do not even know with certainty the date of her death.
We find Charlotte Berthier in above study carried out around 1883 in which she is in the sun, in the garden, always accompanied by her little dog, a real common thread in the paintings that represent her.
And above, the final painting, which Caillebotte produced a year before his death. We understand the title "the dahlias" by the abundance of these flowers in the foreground. Note that the dog turned around in relation to the study!
Also in 1883, Gustave Caillebotte mentioned her companion in a four-page addition to his will, a first version of which had been written in 1876, after the death of his younger brother René.
“I leave Mademoiselle Charlotte Berthier a life annuity of twelve thousand francs.
I would like this annuity to be unseizable and payable every month, I would even prefer
every fifteen days. Albert Courtier could take care of this. This annuity must be net of all inheritance tax.
"I also leave to Miss Charlotte Berthier the little house that I own in Petit Gennevilliers which is currently rented to Mr. Luce, still clear of all rights."
This Mr. Luce is probably the shipbuilder with whom Gustave had designed no less than 25 boat plans, including the famous "Roastbeef", his favorite.
In his art history lectures, Fabrice Roy combines the past with the present, in a poetic and playful evocation of the French 19th century...