Gustave Caillebotte (French: [ɡystav kɑjbɔt]; 19 August 1848 – 21 February 1894) was a French painter, member and patron of the artists known as Impressionists, although he painted in a much more realistic manner than many others in the group. Caillebotte was noted for his early interest in photography as an art form.
Gustave Caillebotte was born on 19 August 1848 to an upper-class Parisian family living in the rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis. His father, Martial Caillebotte (1799–1874), was the inheritor of the family's military textile business and was also a judge at the Seine department's Tribunal de commerce. Caillebotte's father was twice widowed before marrying Caillebotte's mother, Céleste Daufresne (1819–1878), who had two more sons after Gustave: René (1851–1876) and Martial (1853–1910). Caillebotte was born at home on rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis in Paris, and lived there until 1866, when his father had a home built on 77 rue de Miromesnil. Beginning in 1860, the Caillebotte family began spending many of their summers in Yerres, a town on the Yerres River about 12 miles (20 km) south of Paris, where Martial Caillebotte, Sr. had purchased a large property. It probably was around this time that Caillebotte began to draw and paint.
Caillebotte earned a law degree in 1868 and a license to practice law in 1870, and he also was an engineer. Shortly after his education, he was drafted to fight in the Franco-Prussian war, and served from July 1870 to March 1871 in the Garde Nationale Mobile de la Seine.
After the war, Caillebotte began visiting the studio of painter Léon Bonnat, where he began to study painting seriously. He developed an accomplished style in a relatively short time and had his first studio in his parents' home. In 1873, Caillebotte entered the École des Beaux-Arts, but apparently did not spend much time there. He inherited his father's fortune in 1874 and the surviving sons divided the family fortune after their mother's death in 1878. Around 1874, Caillebotte met and befriended several artists working outside the Académie des Beaux-Arts, including Edgar Degas and Giuseppe de Nittis, and he attended (but did not participate in) the first Impressionist exhibition of 1874.
The "Impressionists" – also called the "Independents", "Intransigents", and "Intentionalists" – had broken away from the academic painters showing in the annual Salons. Caillebotte made his debut in the second Impressionist exhibition in 1876, showing eight paintings, including, Les raboteurs de parquet (The Floor Scrapers) (1875), his earliest masterpiece. Its subject matter, the depiction of labourers preparing a wooden floor (thought to have been that of the artist's own studio) was considered "vulgar" by some critics and this is the probable reason for its rejection by the Salon of 1875. At the time, the art establishment deemed only rustic peasants or farmers acceptable subjects from the working class. The painting is now at the Musée d'Orsay. A second version, in a more realistic style resembling that of Degas, also was exhibited, demonstrating Caillebotte's range of technique and his adept restatement of the same subject matter.
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