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.
Sommaire du mémoire
I. Gustave Caillebotte, an original collector
II. Caillebotte's bequest to the State and his reception
III. From the Caillebotte's bequest to 'L'affaire Caillebotte'
Extraits du mémoire
[...] 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. [...]
[...] His own taste had to be taken into account. Indeed, Bénédite was blind to Cézanne and he had never recognized his talent, even if he accepted two canvases by him. He still couldn't see Les Baigneuses (Fig. Le vase de fleur and the Scène Champêtre in 1907, when he refused the offer of Cezanne's murals in the salon de Bouffan31. Léonce Bénédite's acquisition policy of French painting aimed at filling the gaps32, nevertheless, it traduce his taste for Naturalism, very appreciated at this moment. [...]
[...] The acceptation, even partial, of the Caillebotte bequest, shows this evolution. Before that, national museum acquired, not without difficulty, Impressionist works. Indeed, in 1890, a group of subscribers led by Monet managed to open the doors of the Luxembourg Museum to Manet's Olympia even though the artist had died in 1883 and consequently, although the museum didn't respect the rule of the ten years54. In 1892, the Beaux-Art administration on the advice of Stéphane Mallarmé and Roger Marx, bought from Renoir his Young girls at the Piano to be hang at the Luxembourg. [...]
[...] It is nevertheless undeniable that the Caillebotte's bequest had a strong influence on the State and on the Impressionists. The Impressionist room, opened in 1897 with a large part of the Caillebotte's collection, had enabled the public to discover Impressionist works. The fact that these works were hung in a National Museum, accustomed the public and the Press to it, and participated to the raising of Impressionist art as a National French art as well as Academic paintings. This gallery housed in the Luxembourg would play an important role in inspiring future painters such as Matisse61. [...]
À propos de l'auteur
Pauline V.EtudianteHistoire de l'artCaillebotte's bequest