FINEST PAINTINGS BY IMPRESSIONIST GUSTAVE CAILLEBOTTE AT THE KIMBELL ART MUSEUM THIS FALL
Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter’s Eye November 8, 2015–February 14, 2016 On view in the Renzo Piano Pavilion
Fort Worth’s Kimbell Museum does it again, with a jaw dropping retrospective of a hugely important, and surprisingly unknown Impressionist. Gustave Caillebotte is, hands down, my favorite artist. His career began with failure – rejection by the Salon in 1875, when he submitted the above painting The Floor Scrapers to the French Government’s annual elite art exhibition. The painting was considered vulgar (as IF-) and the perspective unsettling (again, seriously?!).
Caillebotte knew all of the Impressionists. He was one of them. He happened to be independently wealthy, so he also supported his peers as a major patron of the group. He and the rest of the group pushed the boundaries of their art, experimenting with subject matter, color and light effects, innovative perspectives and vantage points. Caillebotte was one seriously talented artist. Because he was independently wealthy and didn’t need to sell his paintings for a living, very few of his works have entered public collections. Let me take the opportunity to interject right here that the Kimbell Museum had the foresight and wisdom to be of the early purchasers of his work, adding the above painting On the Pont de l’Europe to its collection in 1981. His painting At A Cafe (unfortunately not pictured in this article) represents one of the most complicated depictions of space IN THE HISTORY OF ART. I’m telling you, this guy is major. So while he was painting alongside his Impressionist peers, and amassing a sizable Impressionist collection as patron, he was playing a significant role in the development of Impressionism. Upon his death, much of his collection was willed to the state, becoming the cornerstone of France’s national collection of Impressionism.
The Kimbell Art Museum will host 50 of the most important and beloved paintings of Paris and its environs by Impressionist Gustave Caillebotte (1848–1894). This critically acclaimed exhibition is the first major U.S. retrospective of the artist’s work in 20 years and will be on view in the Renzo Piano Pavilion from November 8, 2015, through February 14, 2016. The exhibition offers visitors a better understanding of Caillebotte’s artistic character, his innovation and the complexity of his contribution to vanguard painting in France.
“Although Caillebotte’s name may be unfamiliar to many, his works are among the most recognizable in the Impressionist movement,” commented Eric M. Lee, director of the Kimbell Art Museum. “This exhibition intimately explores the multifaceted genius that is Caillebotte. The lovers of Impressionism who come to this show will never, ever, forget who Caillebotte is.”
From the moment of his debut with the Impressionists, Caillebotte (pronounced Ky-Bot) distinguished himself as one of the movement’s most original artists. His unique vision—-his edge—-was honed on the tension that marked his dynamic relationship with his friends and colleagues. And his greatest work—-paintings such as the Kimbell’s renowned On the Pont de l’Europe—-emerged when, being neither Degas nor Monet, he steered a course between the two. Making his debut with the Impressionists by showing strange, even arresting subject matter—-men refinishing floors or an apparently dysfunctional family at the dinner table—-Caillebotte consistently presented paintings that looked unlike any other artist’s works.
Caillebotte’s aesthetic speaks directly to modern urbanites, particularly in the large-scale paintings of city streets that record the radically renovated Paris of the 1860s and 1870s. Recent restoration of the artist’s best-known work, The Art Institute of Chicago’s Paris Street; Rainy Day, has revealed more texture and detail and thus has heightened interest in the entire oeuvre of this still relatively unknown artist.
Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter’s Eye explores the inquisitive, experimental, almost fearless vision that inspired Caillebotte’s masterworks. More than 50 of his strongest paintings illustrate the fertile period from 1875 to 1885 when he was most closely allied with the Impressionists. Among the artist’s wide range of subjects are scenes of daily life in Parisian apartments and on the capital’s busy streets; portraits of friends and family, marked by a strong sense of individual character; remarkable still lifes, celebrating foodstuffs as consumer goods available to a privileged class of buyers; and glorious, sunlit scenes of suburban leisure—-of flower gardens, riverside strollers, rowers, and sailors. Criticized—-and praised—-for his particular style, which blended remarkable subjects and radical points of view with an application of paint that is more controlled and even more “realistic” than his colleagues in the movement, this highly skilled, somewhat eccentric artist was a pioneer in adopting the angled perspective of a modern optical devices to compose his scenes, and his effects are often described as arresting, even cinematic.
“Unlike his friends Monet, Degas, and Renoir, Caillebotte is hard to see in American museums,” said exhibition co-curator George T.M. Shackelford, the Kimbell’s deputy director. “There’s nowhere you can go and see more than a couple of his paintings at a time. So the opportunity to see so many of his greatest works at once—-and more than 60% of the works we’re showing come from private collectors—-is one that’s not to be missed. It’s unlikely to happen again for another generation.”
The exhibition will offer critical insights into the culture that produced the artist—-he grew up a wealthy man in the destruction/construction zone of a city undergoing luxurious modernization. At the same time, the exhibition’s organizers delve into Caillebotte’s inspirations, literary and social milieu, identity and critical reception. It will not only bring the painter into sharper focus—-deepening our understanding of the full history of Impressionism—-but also position him more firmly within the pantheon of French avant-garde art.
To this day, I still think about the time I saw The Floor Scrapers many years ago at the Chicago Art Institute. Trust me when I say that these paintings need to be properly experienced in person. Caillebotte’s sense of perspective and realism will transport you into his paintings – and his world. This rare gathering of works, many from private lenders, is well worth the trip to Fort Worth, from whichever point you inhabit on the globe. With this exhibit, the Kimbell gives us another once in a lifetime opportunity that should not be missed.
Kimbell Art Museum
3333 Camp Bowie Blvd
Fort Worth, TX 76107-2792