Tag Archives: Pierre-Auguste Renoir

The “Tricky Business” of the Caillebotte Bequest.

CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: L’Estaque, c. 1878/9, oil on canvas, 23 1/4 x 28 3/4 inches, Paul Cézanne. Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

By John P. Walsh

Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) exhibited together in the Second Impressionist Exhibition in 1876 and became lifelong friends. Just two years later, in 1878, Caillebotte appointed Renoir to be executor of his will. Now in the wake of Caillebotte’s death in 1894, Renoir and Martial Caillebotte (1853-1910), the artist’s younger brother, were resolved to carry out Caillebotte’s final wishes to the letter. The most important charge given to Caillebotte’s advocates was to persuade the French State to accept their late friend’s collection of Impressionist art that came to be known as the “Caillebotte Bequest.” These 68 paintings were the wealthy artist’s assemblage of prime Impressionist art which today provides a glittering foundation for museum collections around the world, especially the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. An exact count of the bequest varies whether based on the inventories by the estate in 1894, by art writer Gustave Geffroy (1855-1926) also in 1894 or by Renoir, Martial Caillebotte and Léonce Bénédite (1859-1925) in 1896.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1919) at Montmartre in a photograph by Martial Caillebotte around 1885.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1919) at Montmartre in a photograph by Martial Caillebotte around 1885.
Martial Caillebotte (1853–1910), photographer and composer, with brother Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894), artist, collector and arts organizer.
Martial Caillebotte (1853–1910), photographer and composer, with brother Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894), artist, collector and arts organizer.
Gustave Geffroy (1855-1926) in a portrait photograph by Nadar.
Gustave Geffroy (1855-1926) in a portrait photograph by Nadar.
Léonce Bénédite (1856 - 1925), at left, curator for the Caillebotte Bequest.
Léonce Bénédite (1856 – 1925), at left, curator for the Caillebotte Bequest.

In 1894 Caillebotte’s bequest included paintings by living artists such as Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Alfred Sisley, Claude Monet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Two artists in the collection were already dead – and both Jean Millet (1814-1875) and Édouard Manet (1832-1883) were more highly prized than the others at the time. A vast majority of Caillebotte’s more than five dozen paintings were painted and purchased before 1880.

CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Edouard Manet, The Balcony, 1868-69, oil on canvas, 67 3/4 x 40 1/4 inches,  Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

The French government was accustomed to selecting and purchasing works for the national collection on their own initiative and looked on Caillebotte’s donation as a “tricky business” as expressed by Republican Henry Roujon, Fine Arts administrator who had only recently worked for Jules Ferry. From a wanting-to-oblige Establishment viewpoint the bequest was complicated because Caillebotte boldly stipulated that all 68 works be accepted together and earmarked as a group for entrance into the Louvre. Up to now the French State only had experience in purchasing Sisley and Renoir (“Young Girls at the Piano,” acquired in 1892) for the national collection. Moreover the acceptance of Caillebotte’s collection would change State policy to exhibit no more than three works by any artist for Caillebotte’s bequest included more paintings than that number for each artist. Although twenty years had passed since the first Impressionist exhibition in Paris in 1874, the French State had never taken much of a public interest in this diverse group of nonacademic artists.  On the other side of the table as Renoir and Martial Caillebotte were primarily concerned with the State’s acceptance of the entire body of work, those living artists in the bequested collection had their concerns if they succeeded.

Henry Roujon (French, 1853-1914).
Henry Roujon (French, 1853-1914) in 1912.

One antidote to this attitude of entrenchment was that the Republican French state in 1894 was halfway into its second decade of shepherding progressive policies onto France and its cultural leaders realized this must extend to a determined national support for this windfall of abstruse avant-garde artists. Following a year of negotiation with executors Renoir and the younger Caillebotte the State cut its deal. They might have refused the whole lot of them, but accepted a majority of the bequest and more than one painting of each artist. Further they formally agreed to exhibit all 40 works and they were duly hung in the Musée du Luxembourg in February 1897. In addition to two by Millet, these 38 Impressionist masterworks are today in the Musée D’Orsay. None of Caillebotte’s own paintings were included in the legacy. Protests by traditional art voices were now useless: the Impressionists,  accused of “ruining young artists,” were now on national museum walls. Cézanne’s response to the inclusion of two of his paintings is forthright: “Now (William-Adolphe) Bouguereau can go to hell!” During this hard-edged contest to determine which artists and art works were included or excluded, it was not the museums that picked up the pieces but the mainly French and American collectors as well as the gallery dealers who mounted historic one-man shows for Caillebotte (at Durand-Ruel in June 1894), for Cézanne (at Ambroise Vollard in 1895) and for Monet (Durand-Ruel in May 1895).

CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Claude Monet, Luncheon in the Garden, 1873-74, oil on canvas, 63 x 79 1/8 inches, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Girl Reading, c. 1874, oil on canvas, 18 1/8 x 15 inches, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
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CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Railroad Bridge at Chatou, 1881, oil on canvas, 21 1/4 x 25 1/2 inches. Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
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CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Study (Nude in the sunlight), 1875, oil on canvas, 31 7/8 x 25 1/2 inches. Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
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CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Swing, 1876, oil on canvas, 36 1/2 x 28 1/2 inches. Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Edgar Degas, Women on the Terrace of a cafe in the Evening, 1877, pastel over monotype, 16 1/2 x 23 5/8 inches, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
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CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Edgar Degas, The Chorus,1876/77, pastel over monotype, 10 5/8 x12 1/4 inches, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
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CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Edgar Degas, L’Etoile (the Star), 1876/77, pastel over monotype, 22 7/8 x 16 1/2 inches, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
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CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Edgar Degas, Femme sortant du bain, vers 1876, pastel sur monotype, H. 0.16 ; L. 0.215, musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.
CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Camille Pissarro, Red Roofs, Village scene, Winter Effect, 1877, oil on canvas, 21 1/2 x 15 1/4 inches, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
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CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Camille Pissarro, Harvest at Montfoucault, 1876, oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 36 1/4 inches, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
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CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Camille Pissarro, The Vegetable Garden with Trees in Blossom, Spring, Pontoise, 1877, Oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 31 7/8 inches, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
Regatta at Argenteuil
CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Claude Monet, Regattas at Argenteuil, c. 1872, oil on canvas, 17 3/4 x 29 1/2 inches, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Alfred Sisley, Boat Races at Molesey, 1874, oil on canvas, 26 x 35 3/4 inches, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
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CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Claude Monet, The Church at Vétheuil, Snow, 1878-79, oil on canvas, 20 1/2 x 28 inches, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
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CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Auguste Renoir, Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette, 1876, Oil on canvas, H. 131; W. 175 cm © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

The settlement accepted in January 1895 and promulgated a year later was not the last word for Renoir who continued to try to fully achieve his friend’s terms. On at least two occasions – in 1904 and 1908 –  the works refused by the State in 1894 were proffered to them. Both times these 28 remaining works were refused and as far as the French State was concerned the case of the Caillebotte Bequest was closed. Only by his death in 1919 were Renoir’s efforts to honor Caillebotte’s bequest to France halted (Martial had died in 1910). In 1928, over thirty years after Caillebotte’s death and bequest, the French State dared to make a legal claim to those remaining 28 works they had rejected three times previously. Inexorably cloaked in superiority, this latest endeavor of the official art establishment revealed its opportunism as the changing winds of taste now clearly favored Impressionism. Both original executors of Caillbotte’s bequest now dead, it was left to Martial Caillebotte’s son’s widow to respond to these highly-placed administrative scratchings. Her decision: she refused to hand over these works and placed them on the open market. The “rejected” and overlooked works of the “Caillebotte Bequest” were sold to private collectors all over the world, including to Americans Albert C. Barnes (1872-1951), and H.O. Havemeyer (1847-1907) and Louisine Havemeyer (1855-1929). Many of these remainder works’ locations are unknown.

Baigneurs au repos BAthers at rest Barnes 1876 7  oil on canvas
CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Bathers at rest, (Baigneurs au repos), 1876/77, oil on canvas, 32 5/16 x 39 7/8 inches, Paul Cézanne. The Barnes Foundation.
CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Edgar Degas, The Dance Lesson, c. 1879, pastel and black chalk on three pieces of wove paper, 25 3/8 x 22 1/8/inches, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY.

SOURCES: Anne Distel, Impressionism: the First Collectors, Abrams, 1990; Anne Distel, Douglas W. Druick, Gloria Groom, Rodolphe Rapetti and Kirk Varnedoe, Gustave Caillebotte: Urban Impressionist, 1995; http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/collections/history-of-the-collections/painting.html; http://www.philamuseum.org/exhibitions/312.html?page=2

John P. Walsh

Eluding “Terrible Monsieur Degas”: Gustave Caillebotte’s Retro-Style Vision for the Seventh Impressionist Exhibition of 1882.

By John P. Walsh

The Third Impressionist 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 first euphoria was short lived.  Two weeks after the show closed, as hope for picture sales was high, there was a Constitutional crisis in the French government. This political turmoil resulted in the consolidation of Republican power against Royalists which led to a severe national economic recession. The Impressionist group, conceived and carefully built to a unity by Gustave Caillebotte, resorted to squabbling as the artists jostled to survive in a receding financial tide.

Gustave Caillebotte’s efforts for a fourth impressionist exhibition in 1878 were stymied. The next exhibitions would be under Degas’s rule. In 1879 Degas would exclude Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne and Alfred Sisley and, in 1880, Claude Monet. The irony of the intramural politics that created these developments was not lost on Caillebotte. 

For the April 1877 Third Impressionist Exhibition Caillebotte built the group’s brand largely on  “broken brush” impressionists. For the next three impressionist shows in 1879, 1880 and 1881, he worked with Edgar Degas and an artistic coterie that effectively excluded the broken brush contingent. It was prior to the opening of the Sixth Impressionist Exhibition in 1881, that Caillebotte finally departed the Degas-led organization, citing a managerial difference on an advertising issue.

Caillebotte’s withdrawal from arts organization was a short one.

The 32-year-old Caillebotte led the offensive for a retro-style vision for the next impressionist exhibition in 1882. With his emerging partner — 51-year-old Impressionist art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922) — Caillebotte promoted his vision.

But the changing art market in the 1870’s had taken a financial toll on the art dealer. Durand-Ruel had to re-tool his business plan 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 which the artist-art show organizer had crafted to likely realize a small profit.

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P.A.-Renoir, A Luncheon at Bougival, 1881, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

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 this Seventh Impressionist exhibition though Paul Gauguin was represented. Also missing was the artist of Aix, Paul Cézanne, who was off experimenting in the south of France. Cézanne would not be seen again in a Paris art show until 1895 when a huge body of his work was featured in an 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 now and then with dabs of thicker paint, built up an uneven surface that integrated the figure and background and worked to visually mimic the textures of the sitter’s wool clothing.

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Caillebotte, Rising Road (Chemin Montant). 1881.

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,

Gustave Caillebotte, Balcon (Balcony), 1880, oil on canvas, 26 1/4 x 24 in. (68 x 61 cm). Private Collection, Paris. The Seventh Impressionist Exhibition-1882.

Paul Gauguin, A la Fenêtre, nature morte (At the Window, Still Life),1881, oil on canvas, 7.5 x 10.625 in (19 x 27 cm), Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rennes. The Seventh Impressionist Exhibition-1882.

Jean-Baptiste-Armand Guillaumin, Paysage (fin octobre) (Landscape, End of October), c, 1876, oil on canvas, 17 7/8 x 48 1/8 in. (180 x 123 cm), Nasjonalgallereit, Oslo. The Seventh Impressionist Exhibition-1882.

Claude Monet, Soleil couchant, sur la Seine, effet d’hiver (Sunset on the Seine, Winter Effect), 1880, oil on canvas, 39 3/8 x 59 7/8 (100 x 152 cm), Musée du Petit Palais, Paris. The Seventh Impressionist Exhibition-1882.

Camille Pissarro, Jeune paysanne prenant son café, (Young Peasant Woman Drinking Her Coffee), 1881, oil on canvas, 65.3 × 54.8 cm (25 11/16 × 21 9/16 in.), The Art Institute of Chicago. The Seventh Impressionist Exhibition-1882.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Jongleuses au Cirque Fernando, (Jugglers/acrobats at the Cirque Fernando), 1879, oil on canvas, 131.2 × 99.2 cm (51 ½ × 39 1/16 in.), The Art Institute of Chicago. The Seventh Impressionist Exhibition-1882.

Alfred Sisley, Saint-Mammès, temps gris (Saint-Mammès, Cloudy Weather), c. 1880, oil on canvas, 21 5/8 x 29 1/8 in. (54.8 x 74 cm), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The Seventh Impressionist Exhibition-1882.

SOURCES: Charles S. Moffett, The New Painting, 1986; Anne Distel, Urban Impressionist, 1995; http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=4181485

A Bridge Too Far: Gustave Caillebotte and the Fourth (1879), Fifth (1880) and Sixth (1881) Impressionist Exhibitions.

By John P. Walsh

In the five years between the “balanced and coherent” Third Impressionist Exhibition that took place in April 1877 and the exhibition of Gustave Caillebotte’s The Bezique Game in the penultimate Seventh Impressionist exhibition in March 1882, 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 attempted a follow-up impressionist exhibition for 1878 but failed to get it off the ground.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. In 1877 Caillebotte could measure success by 18-count modern art artists under a new brand name, their 230 works, and attendance numbers up from previous shows by almost four fold. Picture sales were up.

In less than one year, the enterprise had devolved into nothing tangible mainly because of a lack of collective coherence and cooperation among the artists themselves. The seeds of destruction for the klatch of avant-garde artists began to sprout during the 1877 show.

Caillebotte’s genius in that show was to ignore the necessary problems. He adeptly avoided a train wreck of antagonistic and divergent creative forces by keeping them literally physically apart. 

There were two major factions. The first was the classically-trained Edgar Degas (1834-1917) and his realist urban figure drawing and the second was the nonacademic broken-brush innovators such as Claude Monet (1840-1926).

For the duration of the Third Impressionist exhibition, all of Degas’s 25 beach and ballet works hung in a room of their own. 

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 EDGAR DEGAS (1834 – 1917).

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CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926).

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GUSTAVE CAILLEBOTTE (1848-1894).

If in business one cannot argue with success, the caveat for the impressionist shows is: unless you are “the terrible Monsieur Degas.”

The circumstances surrounding Degas’s dispute with Caillebotte’s show was not entirely of Degas’ making, though his disputatious character was. The ensuing personal and political battle after 1877 between Degas and his group of artists and Monet and his, affected every impressionist show up until and including the last one in 1886.

The catalyst for their dispute and division was their different understandings of what was the second major development to affect the modern artists.

Despite the Salon leaders after 1863 continuing to be anti-democratic, the trend by the late 1870’s was towards a liberalized Salon. In 1881, the French government divested itself of the Salon completely. Before that, in 1878, the government allowed the “broken brush” Impressionists like Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) to participate in their “Exhibition of Living Artists.”

Édouard Dantan, Un Coin du Salon en 1880 (A Corner of the Salon in 1880), 1880, oil on canvas, 97.2 x 130.2 cm (38.2 x 51.2 in.). Private collection.

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 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.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1919).

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1919).

Paul Cézanne (French 1839-1906) and Camille Pissarro (French, 1830-1903).

Paul Cézanne (French 1839-1906) and Camille Pissarro (French, 1830-1903).

Alfred Sisley (British, born France, 1839-1899).

Alfred Sisley (British, born France, 1839-1899).

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.

Gustave Caillebotte, The Bezique Game (Partie de bésigue), 1880, private collection.

Mary Cassatt (American, 1844 –1926) in later years.
Mary Cassatt (American, 1844 –1926) in later years.
Édouard Manet (French, 1832-1883).
Édouard Manet (French, 1832-1883).
Berthe Morisot (French, 1841-1895) in 1875.
Berthe Morisot (French, 1841-1895) in 1875.

Card games.

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.

Edgar Degas, Chevaux de course (Jockeys before the Race), 1869-1872, oil, essence, pastel on paper, 107 x 73 cm, 42 1/8 x 28 3/4 in., The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham. The Fourth Impressionist Exhibition-1879.

Gustave Caillebotte, The Skiffs, 1877, oil on canvas, 88.9 x 116.2 cm (35 x 45 3/4 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. The Fourth Impressionist Exhibition-1879.

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Mary Cassatt, Femme dans une loge (Woman in a Loge), 1879, oil on canvas, 80.3 x 58.4 cm (31 5/8 x 23 in.), Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Fourth Impressionist Exhibition-1879.

Edgar Degas, Miss Lola, au Cirque Fernando, 1879, oil on canvas, 117 x 77.5 cm ( 46 x 30 1/2 in.), National Gallery, London. The Fourth Impressionist Exhibition-1879.

Claude Monet, Jardin à Sainte-Adresse (Garden at Sainte-Adresse), 1867, oil on canvas, 38 5/8 x 51 1/8 in. (98.1 X 129.9 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The Fourth Impressionist Exhibition-1879.

Jean-Louis Forain, Café Interior, c.1879, gouache on paper, 12 7/8 x 10 in. (32.8 x 25.5 cm). The Fourth Impressionist Exhibition-1879.

Federico Zandomeneghi, Portrait of M. Diego Martelli, 1879, oil of canvas, 28 3/8 x 36 1/4 in. (72 x 92 cm), Galleria D’Arte Moderna, Florence. The Fourth Impressionist Exhibition-1879.

Sources: Charles Moffett, The New Painting, 1986; Anne Distel, Urban Impressionist, 1995; Ross King, The Judgment of Paris: The Decade that Gave Us Impressionism, 2006; John Milner, The Studios of Paris, 1990; Alfred Werner, Degas Pastels, 1998.

John P. Walsh

Gustave Caillebotte’s Dinner Invitation Leads to the Exquisite Third Impressionist Exhibition of 1877.

RUE HALÉVY, SIXTH FLOOR VIEW (RUE HALÉVY, VUE D’UN SIXIÈME ÉTAGE), 1878, Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894), private collection.

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.

For much of the 1980’s Richard R. Brettell was Searle Curator of European Painting at The Art Institute of Chicago.

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 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. 

PARIS STREET; A RAINY DAY (“Rue de Paris, Temps de pluie”), 1877, Gustave Caillebotte, The Art Institute of Chicago.

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.

Gustave Caillebotte , Le Pont De L’Europe, 1876, oil on canvas, 125 x 181 cm, Petit Palais/Musée d’art moderne, Geneva, Switzerland.

Gustave Caillebotte, Portraits à la campagne, 1876. oil on canvas, 95 × 111 cm (37.4 × 43.7 in.), Musée Baron Gérard, Bayeux.

Source:
The New Painting: Impressionism 1874-1886, 1986, Charles S. Moffet.