FEATURE image: Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mill Run, Pennsylvania. March 2010. Author’s photograph.
Fallingwater is a house designed in 1935 by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959). It is in the Laurel Highlands of southwest Pennsylvania, about 70 miles away from downtown Pittsburgh.
The house was intended as a weekend retreat for the owners of a Pittsburgh department store. It is built partly over a waterfall on Bear Run, a tributary of the Youghiogheny River, in the Appalachians.
The photographs and videos were taken in March 2010.
FEATURE image: P.A.-Renoir, A Luncheon at Bougival, 1881, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. The Seventh Impressionist Exhibition – 1882.
By John P. Walsh
In the five years between the “balanced and coherent” Third Impressionist Art Exhibition in April 1877 and the penultimate Seventh Impressionist Art Exhibition in March 1882 which included Gustave Caillebotte’s The Bezique Game, many significant changes had occurred in the art world.
Two major developments were especially impactful for the band of independent and ever-varying avant-garde artists known as the “impressionists.” The first was that, after 1877, the group had fallen apart.
The Third Impressionist Exhibition in 1877 organized by Caillebotte and Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) demonstrated the benefit of a marketing plan within a professional arts organization. Caillebotte’s attempted follow-up to host an impressionist exhibition in 1878, however, failed to get it off the ground.
It wasn’t for his lack of trying. In 1877, Caillebotte could measure success by 18-count modern art artists under a new brand name, along with 230 works, and show attendance numbers up from the first and second exhibitions by almost four fold. Picture sales were also up.
In less than one year, the enterprise devolved to nothing tangible because of a lack of collective aesthetic and business coherence among the artists themselves. The seeds of destruction for this klatch of mostly young, avant-garde artists became evident during the 1877 show.
Caillebotte’s genius in the 1877 show was to know when to ignore problems. He avoided a train wreck of divergent and antagonistic creative artists by keeping them literally physically apart.
The Impressionists had two major factions. The first was led by classically-trained Edgar Degas (1834-1917) with his realist urban figure drawing. The second was the nonacademic, “broken-brush” innovators such as Claude Monet (1840-1926) exploring the effects of light.
For the duration of the Third Impressionist exhibition, all of Degas’s 25 beach and ballet works hung in a room of their own.
As a business seeks popukar and financial success, a caveat to that objective for these impressionist shows was “the terrible Monsieur Degas.”
Circumstances for Degas’s dispute with Caillebotte’s show were not of Degas’ making, although Degas had an argumentative personality. The battle, both personal and political, after 1877 between Degas and his group of artists and Monet and his group, affected every impressionist show right up to the last one in 1886.
The catalyst for the Impressionists’ division was their different understandings of what became the second major development to affect these contemporary artists.
Throughout the 1860s, the Salon continued to be anti-democratic. By the late 1870s, however, the trend moved towards a liberalized Salon. In 1881, the French government divested itself of the Salon completely. Before that, in 1878, the government allowed “broken brush” Impressionists like Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) to participate in their “Exhibition of Living Artists.”
Biggest art show in Paris.
Whatever its drawbacks, the Salon remained the biggest art show in Paris. While the Third Impressionist Exhibition in 1877 attracted 15,000 visitors in its one month run—the Salon attracted 23,000 visitors per day. The Salon displayed around twenty-three times more art than the Impressionist show and attracted fifty times more visitors. Opportunities for sales and new clients at one of these nineteenth-century warehouse events was immense. After years of fighting for greater participation in the Salon, in 1878 innovative Impressionists were allowed to hang their artwork in an annual show that for hundreds of years was the domain of the Paris art world’s institutional elite.
In terms of the next impressionist show, Degas devised an ingeniously small-minded idea that he presented ennobled by principle.
Despite the opening to the Salon to young avant-garde artists—Monet and Renoir were in their late 30’s, Degas in his mid 40’s—the older and more financially secure artist insisted that impressionists must make a choice. Either they exhibit in the Salon or with the Impressionists.
Degas’s ultimatum was crafted to pressure the “broken brush” impressionists such as Renoir, Monet, Sisley and Cézanne to break ranks so to improve their sales and reputations in a rapidly changing art market.
Degas’s wedge prevailed. By 1880, the “broken brush” impressionists were purged from the Impressionist exhibitions by their own decision to exhibit in the Salon.
This situation helped secure the Impressionist shows of 1879, 1880, and 1881 under the leadership of Degas.
These three exhibitions featured Degas and his favorite artists. It was in these Degas-led shows that the public had their first in-depth look at Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) and Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), among others.
Not all of the Impressionists’ founding members decided to exhibit in the Salon. Camille Pissarro and Berthe Morisot (1841-1895) chose to stay loyal to the independent art group and would continuing doing so through all eight shows. Gustave Caillebotte had invested his talent, reputation and resources into the independents since 1876 and continued to organize and exhibit with them in 1879 and 1880. Before the 1881 show, Caillebotte broke with the impressionist exhibition as he and Degas had a dispute over a minor business issue.
As quickly as the calendar proclaimed a new decade, a set of new opportunities for Impressionist exhibitions began percolating in Caillebotte’s head as he painted The Bezique Game (1880) of and within a constantly shifting artistic environment.
The game of Bezique is a 64-card game for two players and curiously French. In the game two singles players sit across the net to compete to 1000 points. The rest are score keepers or observers. As the game carries on, card “tricks” pile up on the table.
Some art critics viewing Caillebotte’s contemporary subject of a popular game identified the painting as a “legible and tightly ordered” image out of the long-held pictorial tradition of card playing. Yet idiomatic clichés related to card playing such as “playing one’s cards right” or “holding one’s cards close to the chest” may be read into the painting. It is one of the canvasses painted by impressionist artists during this time that relate to the Impressionist group’s recent and ongoing exhibition experiences.
Nineteenth-century art critics usually grouped together the artwork of Caillebotte and Degas, Neither artist was among the “strict” impressionists such as of Monet and Renoir. Several critics wondered aloud in the newspaper why Caillebotte would even have dealings with those “broken-brush” daubers now at the Salon with Édouard Manet.
The Third Impressionist Art Exhibition held in April 1877 is known as “Caillebotte’s Exhibition.” It is the highlight of the eight Impressionist exhibitions held between 1874 and 1886. While scholars agree that the Third Impressionist Exhibition was in every sense “glorious,” the show’s euphoria was short lived. Two weeks after the show closed, as hope for picture sales grew high, there was a Constitutional crisis in the French government. The political turmoil resulted in a consolidation of Republican power defeating Royalists which led to a national economic recession. The Impressionist group, conceived and carefully built to unity by Gustave Caillebotte, resorted to squabbling as the artists jostled to survive in receding good times.
Gustave Caillebotte’s efforts for a fourth impressionist exhibition in 1878 were stymied and the next 3 exhibitions would be under Degas’s rule. In 1879 Degas exclude the “broken brish” artists Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne and Alfred Sisley. In 1880, Degas cast out Claude Monet. The destructive outcome of these intramural politics was not lost on Caillebotte.
Caillebotte built the group’s brand in the Third Impressionist Art Exhibition in 1877 largely on “broken brush” impressionists nwho were excluded from Degas’s shows. Caillebotte, however, worked with Edgar Degas and his artistic coterie in 1879, 1880 and 1881. Oy was before the opening of the Sixth Impressionist Exhibition in 1881 that Caillebotte finally departed the Degas-led organization. Caillebotte cited differences on an advertising issue.
Yet Caillebotte’s nonparticipation with the Impressionists was short lived.
The 32-year-old Caillebotte looked to a retro-style vision for an Impressionist Art Exhibition in 1882. His emerging partner was 51-year-old Impressionist art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922).
The Seventh Impressionist Art Exhibition: Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922)
The changing art market in the 1870s had taken a financial toll on the art dealer’s modern art business. Durand-Ruel re-tooled his dealership to focus not on large-scale group shows but small shows of individual artists. Overall the French economy had sunk into hard times and big shows cost more money. Following the disastrous Hôtel Drouot auction in 1875—which Durand-Ruel believed was an attempt by his critics to discredit him as an art dealer—the well-stocked Impressionist art dealer reluctantly agreed to go forward with Caillebotte’s exhibition plan for 1882. Caillebotte convinced the dealer that the Seventh show would earn a small profit.
Caillebotte’s main hook was to re-integrate the excluded “broken brush” or “strict” impressionists including Renoir and Claude Monet. Degas and his faction of artists including Mary Cassatt stayed away from the Seventh Impressionist exhibition though Paul Gauguin was represented. Also missing was the artist of Aix, Paul Cézanne, who was experimenting with volumes in the south of France. Cézanne would not be seen in a Paris art show until 1895 when a huge body of his work was featured in a landmark retrospective exhibition at Ambroise Vollard’s gallery.
Caillebotte’s first move was to secure the popular Renoir for the upcoming March 1882 show. Renoir sent 24 new works, including his iconic large-format A Luncheon at Bougival (Un déjeuner à Bougival). Durand-Ruel insisted on a standardized presentation, including simple white frames for every work. In addition to Monet and Renoir, the seventh show hailed a triumphant return for Alfred Sisley. Camille Pissarro displayed several paintings of peasant girls. His tiny pseudo-pointillist brushstrokes overlaid with occasional dabs of thicker paint, built up an uneven surface that integrated the figure and background which worked to visually mimic the textures of the sitter’s wool clothing.
Caillebotte sent 17 works to the show. The Bezique Game (Partie de bésigue) painted in 1880, was joined by Rising Road (Chemin Montant) painted in 1881. This latter work’s path hardly rises—a feature that contributed to the canvas’s mystery. The question was asked whether it was a reprise of the “enhanced perspective” that aggravated critics in 1876 when they saw it in The Floor Scrapers.
Rising Road is painted with a free handling of colors in the loose brushwork style of Monet and Renoir whose closer re-acquaintance Caillebotte made. One critic poked fun at the painting’s mysterious pair as viewers wondered with him who is “the conjugal couple…seen from the back” ? Their identities and location are uncertain although speculation has put Caillebotte in the painting with his lifelong companion Charlotte Berthier.
Rising Road (Chemin Montant) has had only two owners since 1881. It sold in 2003 for nearly $7 million ($6,727,500) at Christie’s in New York City,
FEATURE image: Gustave Caillebotte, Paris street; a rainy day (Rue de Paris, Temps de pluie), 1877, The Art Institute of Chicago. Caillebotte submitted his painting to the Third Impressionist Art Exhibition held in Paris in 1877.
The first Impressionist exhibition was held in Paris in 1874. Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) who had in 1875 divided a more than two-million-franc inheritance with his older half-brother and Catholic priest Alfred (1834-1896) and younger brother Martial (1853-1910 did not participate with the Impressionists in that watershed show.
Henri Rouart (1833-1912) was of the same high class circle as his neighbor Caillebotte and one of the two signatures on a formal invitation to Caillebotte inviting him to exhibit in the second Impressionist exhibition in 1876. The other signatory was Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919).
Caillebotte accepted and sent eight paintings including his famous The Floor Scrapers (Les raboteurs de parquet) that today hangs in the Museé D’Orsay.
Rejected by the Salon
The Impressionists were not purists to their collective cause and to varying degrees many of them if reluctantly exhibited in the French government’s annual exhibition known as the Salon. Despite its attempts at modernism, the Salon remained a conservative venue and while The Floor Scrapers of 1875 was exhibited in the Impressionist show in 1876 it had been rejected by the Salon in the previous year.
Artwork called “vulgar” and “leftist”
In addition to its subject matter and artificially enhanced perspective, The Floor Scrapers was called “vulgar” and “leftist” by critics because the painting commutes the nude—a traditional academic subject—into the Impressionist specialty of a modern life subject.
The floor scrapers in the painting are not removing old wax as might be first suspected. Their efforts show them working in a new building where they are preparing the wood by inducing its buckling with water and scraping it smooth.
Gustave Caillebotte’s Dinner Invitation Leads to the Exquisite Third Impressionist Exhibition of 1877
Richard R. Brettell, chair in Art and Aesthetics at the University of Texas at Dallas, states plainly that in January or February 1877 a soirée of seven male artists constituted what was “arguably the most important dinner party of painters held in the nineteenth century.”
The reason for this social occasion was all business—specifically, to ponder and discuss the future of French modern art. It was hosted in the well-appointed Paris apartment of fellow artist Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) on Rue Miromesnil in the Faubourg Saint- Honoré in Paris.
The clubby dinner idea and its invitation to artists ranging in age from 28-year-old Caillebotte to 49-year-old Pissarro was the initiative of those two arists as evidenced in a surviving letter from Caillebotte to Pissarro. In the letter, haute bourgeois Caillebotte invites sometime anarchist and socialist Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) to this smart-set gathering and shares with Pissarro an advance guest list.
Monday night dinner of Impressionists
Five of the greatest avant-garde painters of their generation joined Caillebotte and Pissarro on the next Monday night. They were: Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Claude Monet (1840-1926), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Alfred Sisley (1839-1899), and Édouard Manet (1832-1883), “the dean” of modern artists. If Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) was not in self-imposed exile in Switzerland for being unwilling to pay a heavy indemnity to the French Government and Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) was not creating misunderstood masterpieces even by avant-garde standards, the tally in Caillebotte’s suite of rooms would still fit Richard Brettell’s description.
Caillebotte’s aim was direct. He wanted to facilitate frank and fruitful discussion among these artists to set an agenda and strategy for the future of French modern painting. Their plans included a third exhibition of their so-called “new painting.” A likely agenda item was marketing for these modern artists’ first exhibition that was advertised as “Impressionist.” Such is the an ambiguous moniker of descriptive iconography and critical valuation that endured.
Modern art show on the new Paris Boulevards
Caillebotte selected the venue for the April 1877 show. It was a five-room luxury apartment in the heart of Baron Haussmann’s newly-constructed Paris. The capital’s boulevards became a symbol of French wealth, modernity, and prestige.
Caillebotte’s organizational methods worked. The Third Impressionist Exhibition is judged to be “the most balanced and coherent” of the eight exhibitions held between 1874 and 1886. Gustave Caillebotte contrived, solicited and arranged for what he wanted to see as a “democratic” exhibition of 230 works representing 18 artists. In its 30-day run, the exhibition attracted 500 attendees per day.
Caillebotte sent six of his paintings to the show including his iconic Paris Street: A Rainy Day. It hangs today in The Art Institute of Chicago though in 2012 and until January 20, 2013 it was loaned out to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
Brettell thinks it is fair to say that Caillebotte had just one notable set back during this third exhibition affair—the young art show producer and artist was unable to convince Édouard Manet to “desert the Salon and join forces with the Impressionists” to exhibit with them.
Sources: The New Painting: Impressionism 1874-1886, 1986, Charles S. Moffet.
Gustave Caillebotte: Urban Impressionist, 1995, Anne Distel, editor.
FEATURE image: Kaskaskia tribe member leads Fr. Jacques Marquette, S.J. and Louis Jolliet through the Chicago Portage, 1673. Cor-10 steel, Ferdinand Rebechini (1923-2003), The Chicago Portage National Historic Site, Lyons, Illinois, 1990. Author’s photograph taken in November 2012.
In September 1673 members of the Kaskaskia, a Native American tribe of the Illinois Confederation, led French explorers Louis Jolliet (1645-1700) and Père Jacques Marquette, S.J. (1637-1675) through the portage that was well known to Native Americans for centuries and later called the Chicago Portage. The statue depicts that event, showing a Native American pulling the canoe where water meets land, and Jolliet in the middle and Father Marquette, a cross upon his chest, standing outside the canoe and pointing ahead. For hundreds of years, early travelers, traders, and settlers had to carry their canoes and its contents overland through the Chicago Portage between the Chicago and Des Plaines Rivers. It was on this tract of Illinois land – little changed since the mid17th century – where Marquette and Jolliet, the first French explorers to open up the Old Northwest Territory, once stood.
Made of Cor-10 steel by Chicago-area artist Ferdinand Rebechini (1923-2003) and dedicated in April 1990, the sculpture at The Chicago Portage is made of the same material used to construct Chicago’s Picasso statue in Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago.
This outdoor sculpture stands at the western terminus of a nearly 8-mile-long water-and-overland travel route across the Continental Divide between the St. Lawrence and Mississippi River systems known as “the Chicago Portage.” Linking Lake Michigan (via the Chicago River) to the Mississippi River (via the Des Plaines River), the Chicago Portage became the key to expansion of travel and trade in the Old Northwest territory which later became the raison d’être for the founding of Chicago.
Portage Type and Length Could Widely Vary With the Weather and Seasons
The length of the portage varied with the weather. If water was high, canoes could be paddled longer from Portage Creek into Mud Lake and to the Chicago River without any overland portaging. In dry times, travelers would have to portage in the waist-high swamp waters of Mud Lake, and then drag their canoes through swamp, sloughs, and mud all the way to the Chicago River. The portage became no better in times of drought. Then the overland portage could be as long as upwards of 100 miles with no paddling between the Chicago River and the Illinois River near LaSalle/Peru.
Used and well-known by the Native Americans, the portage was first used by the Europeans in the mid-17th century. It became a major gateway for exploration and pioneer expansion to the West and for the fur trade. The portage at Chicago was discovered in September 1673 by Frenchmen Père Jacques Marquette and his guide Louis Jolliet as they returned from their voyage of exploration down the Mississippi River. A 36-year-old Marquette, already in bad health, spent his last winter of 1674-75 near the portage, and died in May 1675 near Ludington, Michigan. Numerous missionaries, soldiers, pioneers, voyageurs and traders into Illinois Country passed through the portage, including René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle (1643-1687) and Henry de Tonty (1649-1704). Starting around 1700, Europeans were kept out of the area by Native Americans who continued to use the portage extensively as the native peoples had done for centuries before the European arrival. Over the first half of the 18th century, the portage restricted non-Indian travel.
Ceded to the United States in 1795 in the Treaty of Greenville, the portage route was meticulously mapped and developed in the 19th century to meet the needs of greater interstate commerce. The Illinois and Michigan Canal was built along this route in 1848 mainly using Irish immigrant labor in its construction. In 1907, the Sanitary and Shipping Canal was built and remains in use today. The western terminus site is located in today’s city of Lyons, Illinois.
Made Chicago’s Founding and Thriving Possible
Since 1950, the historic Chicago Portage is owned and part of the Cook County Forest Preserve system. In 1952 the U.S. Department of Interior recognized the historic importance of the portage by officially designating it a National Historic Site. The site is also part of the I & M Canal National Heritage Corridor. The eastern end of the portage route is the site of Fort Dearborn, by Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Chicago River near today’s high-traffic DuSable (Michigan Avenue) Bridge. Fort Dearborn was originally constructed in 1803 to protect the trade route made possible by the portage and through what would soon became Chicago, the “City of the Century.”