Caillebotte's bequest, Impressionist, Renoir, collector
Gustave Caillebotte (Fig. 1) has long been considered as an odd man out in the circle of the French Impressionist. A wealthy amateur, a friend and a supporter of these artists, Caillebotte amassed a stunning collection of their work, which he bequeathed to the State at his death in 1894, and which was at the basis of the collections of Impressionist art in France1.
The Impressionist painters created a revolution in the Art of late nineteenth century. Actually, they were supported by few devoted art lovers, such as Caillebotte, and dealers who played an important part in this aesthetic upheaval. Théodore Duret said that "the public that laughs so loudly while looking at the Impressionists is in for an even bigger surprise: their paintings sell!"2. They had a bad reception in the public and the Press, because people were used to academic paintings and art 'pompier'3, but the Impressionist market was an operation of speculation organized by merchant such as Durand-Ruel, Vollard and Tanguy, and therefore it was totally dissociated from the public4. Impressionist was criticized of course, but their market was more and more flourishing. Important impressionist sale took place between 1875 and 1899, and Caillebotte was one of buyers5.
France political system had changed and after many upheavals, the old monarchy was from then on, replaced by a new Republic. Despite the fact many politics tried to change the Beaux-Art system into a Republican organization, the State remained strongly influenced by the Academy6. Therefore, in the National Museum, there were mostly official academic paintings and other tendencies were not truly represented. The official art of the Academy was in conflict with the independent art, defended by Impressionist7.
This essay will be based on Caillebotte's bequest and how the State receipt and promoted Impressionist artists. Various theses about the 'affaire Caillebotte' will be equally considered in order to determine what the consequences of the Affair Caillebotte are on the State policy for the art and on the recognition of the Impressionist.
[...] The more obvious one was to provide help to his friends and the second one was to contribute to the fame of the French national art12. This could explain his important bequest to the State. He bought canvases for much more than their real price contrarily to other merchant such as Vollard and Durand-Ruel who bought paintings very cheap and sold them for very expensive prices13. Lastly, he sold only the canvases made by himself to help his friends and he never sold a piece of his collection14. [...]
[...] Caillebotte wrote give to the state the pictures he own; only as I want this gift to be accepted, and accepted in such a way that the pictures go neither into an attic nor to a provincial museum but right into the Luxembourg and later to the Louvre” he emphasized in this way, his strong volition to make his collection visible by everyone in a National Museum. He chose Renoir as executor and his younger brother Martial Caillebotte as his only heir22. [...]
[...] Many problems were emphasized with the Caillebotte's bequest. Firstly, conflicts between impressionist defenders and the conservative faction were stirred up. We have to bear in mind that Paris was a city petrified by academic influences. Therefore, academician showed the development of Impressionism as an insult to the “great contemporary French art”. One of them, Jean-Léon Gérome (1824-1904) affirmed about the Caillebotte bequest that “when the State accepts that sort of muck, then we know that we are in the grip of the real moral decline”43. [...]
[...] Octave Mirabeau wrote in 1894 that the state wanted to refuse the bequest. It was the origin of the legend of the Affaire Caillebotte47. The ‘Comité des beaux arts' was, owing to the article 35 of his status, charge of everything what can contribute to progress and improvement of Beaux-Art” and should “Watch and support French art's interests”. The comity, essentially composed by Pierre Vaisse, ‘L'affaire Caillebotte', L'Histoire 1/09 (1992), pp Marie Berhaut, ‘Caillebotte, sa vie, son œuvre', (Paris : Fondation Wildenstein, Bibliotheque des arts, 1978), pp The new Caillebotte affair (1984), pp Declared by Gerome in the Journal des Artistes (08/04/1894). [...]
[...] Ludion Press (Ghent, 1996) Kirk Vandoe, Gustave Caillebotte, (London : Yale University Press, 1987) Pierre Vaisse, La troisième République et les peintres (Paris : Flammarion, 1993) Anne Distel, Impressionism : The first collectors (New York : Harry N.Abrams, Inc., 1989) Philippe Poirier, L'Etat et la culture en France au XXème siècle (Paris : LGF - Livre de Poche, 2009) Marie Berhaut, Caillebotte. Catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels (Paris : La Bibliothèque des Arts, 2000) Articles Jeanne Laurent, Pierre Vaisse and Jacques Chardeau new Caillebotte affair MIT Press 20/11 (1984) Joseph Bernac, Caillebotte bequest to the Luxembourg', the Art journal (1895) Pierre Vaisse, ‘L'affaire Caillebotte', L'Histoire 1/09 (1992) Matilde Arnoux, ‘Léonce Bénédite', Dictionnaire critique des historiens de l'art actifs en France de la Révolution à la Première Guerre mondiale" (2009), INHA Website Annexes Caillebotte, Self-portrait Oil on canvas, Musée d'Orsay, Paris x 38 cm Figure 1 Renoir, The Ball at the Moulin de la Galette Oil on canvas, Musée d'Orsay, Paris 131 x 175 cm Figure 2 Monet, Gare St Lazare Oil on canvas, Musée d'Orsay, Paris 73 x 104 cm Figure 3 Monet, Gare Saint Lazare. [...]
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