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Inspirational Artists: Gustave Caillebotte

When visiting the Musee d’Orsay one of the paintings that strikes you is Gustave Caillebotte’s ‘Les raboteurs de parquet’ (The Floor Scrapers) which was painted in 1875 and was considered "vulgar" by some critics and rejected by the Paris Salon of 1875. The painting is a masterpiece that coveys perfect lineage and his more realistic style and his ability to capture atmosphere.

Caillebotte was born in 1848 to an upper-class Parisian family. Caillebotte earned a law degree in 1868 and a licence to practise law in 1870, and he also was an engineer. However, Caillebotte began visiting the studio of painter Léon Bonnat, where he began to study painting seriously and developed an accomplished style in a relatively short time. He inherited his father's fortune in 1874 and met and befriended several artists working outside the Académie des Beaux-Arts, including Edgar Degas and Giuseppe de Nittis.

The "Impressionists" had broken away from the academic painters showing in the annual Salons and Caillebotte made his debut in the second Impressionist exhibition in 1876, showing eight paintings, including, Les raboteurs de parquet (The Floor Scrapers).

Caillebotte is considered part of the first movement after Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism. Caillebotte's style belongs to the School of Realism, but was strongly influenced by his Impressionist friends. He has many styles at times, very much in the Degas camp of rich-coloured realism, at other times, he shares the Impressionist commitment to "optical truth" and employs an impressionistic pastel-softness and loose brush strokes similar to Renoir.

Caillebotte painted many domestic and familial scenes, interiors, and portraits. There are scenes of dining, card playing, piano playing, reading, and sewing, all executed in an intimate, manner that portrays the quiet ritual of upper-class indoor life. But he is best known for his paintings of urban Paris, such as ‘The Europe Bridge’ (Le Pont de l'Europe) (1876), and ‘Paris Street; Rainy Da’y (Rue de Paris; temps de pluie (1877).

Caillebotte died of pulmonary congestion while working in his garden at Petit-Gennevilliers in 1894 at age 45. He was interred at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

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