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Gustave Caillebotte was a Parisian artist born in August 1848 to a family of the upper class. Martial Caillebotte, his father, worked as a judge at the Tribunal de commerce, at the Seine department, and also inherited the family business of military textile. He and his mother, Céleste Daufresne, had three children altogether; the youngest, Gustave, then René, and lastly Martial, who also became an artist, more specifically a composer and photographer. It’s not certain when Caillebotte began painting and drawing, but historians believe it was when he was about twelve years old. During this period, he would join his family on summer trips to their property in Southern France, by the Yerres River. Although Caillebotte became interested in art at an early age, he began his education in law, earning a degree in 1868 and a license to practice two years later, at the age of 22. Not only that, but he was also dedicated to studying engineering.
As soon as he concluded his formal education, in July 1870, Caillebotte was sent to serve in the Franco-Prussian war which he remained for about a year. It was only after his return that he decided to become a full-time artist. During this time, he met the Romanticist Léon Bonnat and by visiting his studio, he felt inspired to have a studio of his own - firstly his parents home. The French painter entered the École des Beaux-Arts in 1873 but wasn’t too enthusiastic about the Academy. Caillebotte didn’t struggle with financial issues since he was lucky to inherit his father’s fortune in 1874, and divided the rest of his families inheritance with his siblings four years later.
In fact, the year 1874 was significant for a series of reasons. On top of receiving a large inheritance that meant the painter didn’t have to worry about selling his art, Caillebotte met many avant-guard artists who were marginalized by the Academy because of their modern view of art, like Giuseppe de Nittis and Edgar Degas. He also was able to see the first Impressionist exhibit, the Salon des Refusés, which had a significant impact on his artwork and he joined the group in their second art show a year later. This group of men represented the artists rejected by the traditional Paris Salon and merged to create their own exhibition, breaking old patterns of Classic art seen at the Paris Salon. Caillebotte’s debut was with his early masterpiece concluded in 1875, entitled The Floor Scrapers - a piece rejected by the Paris Salon and seen as vulgar by the critics at the time, but now can be seen in the Musée d’Orsay.
To describe Caillebotte’s style, it is necessary to have a knowledge of Realist artists that came before him, like Gustave Courbet, Jean-François Millet, just as the Modern artists of his time, as he would gather a mix of influences to create his unique style. Like the Impressionists, he wished to portray reality as he saw it. The French painter was also inspired by the unconventional compositions of Japanese prints, as well as photography. By 34 years of age, he stopped participating in art shows, dedicating his time to his hobbies. During this period, he spent much time with his friend Auguste Renoir and even appeared in his famous artwork entitled Luncheon of the Boating Party. Caillebotte passed away of pulmonary congestion at the young age of 45, in 1894, while working in his garden in Gennervillers, France.