April Showers: Quick Bite

Today on Museum Quick Bites we’re kicking off the month of April with a stroll along Gustave Caillebotte’s, Paris Street; Rainy Day (Rue de Paris, Temps de Pluie; 1877). This snapshot of late 19th century Paris, captures a busy intersection in the newly modernized City of Light. Considered radical at the time for its seemingly asymmetrical arrangement and cropped figures, Caillebotte’s painting is filled with delightful details.

Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877) by Gustave Caillebotte, Art Institute of Chicago

So let’s dig in! Starting with the upper right close-up (see below) and moving clockwise, zoom in and note the woman’s fur-trimmed coat and delicate veil. How the cropped figure of a man on the far right is about to graze the couple’s umbrella. The play of light on the watery cobblestones, and how one man tiptoes across the puddles. The umbrellas add depth and a touch of playfulness to the scene. Notice how the carriage driver appears to pop out of one umbrella? And a pair of legs sprout from beneath another? Despite the gloom, this drizzly scene has a bustling, energetic vibe.

Close-ups of Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877) by Gustave Caillebotte, Art Institute of Chicago

Fun Arty Fact #1: Paris’s Haussmann apartment buildings were designed by Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann (1809-1891), a controversial city planner, nicknamed “the Demolisher”.

A devout Bonapartist, Haussmann was hired by Napoléon III to modernize Paris. He razed the city’s medieval buildings and narrow streets, and repaved Paris with wide, tree-lined boulevards and his iconic apartments. Strictly standardized, the Haussmann buildings were constructed to be no more than five stories high, with roofs pitched at a precise 45 degrees, and balconies tricked out in wrought iron.

Georges-Eugène Haussmann, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Wikimedia Commons

Artist Background:  Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) was born in Paris, the eldest child from his father, Martial’s third marriage. Raised in a wealthy family, Gustave’s father was a judge and owner of the family’s textile manufacturing company. As a child, Gustave learned to paint, but in school, he studied engineering and law. Shortly after receiving his law license, he was drafted into the military and fought in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871).

Left: Gustave Caillebotte (c1878), Wikimedia Commons

Right: Raboteurs de parquet (1875) by Gustave Caillebotte, Musée d’Orsay

After the war, Gustave decided to pursue an artistic career and in 1873, enrolled in the École des Beaux-Arts. The following year, he attended the first Impressionist Exhibition in Paris and subsequently befriended several of the artists. Independently wealthy, Gustave became a patron for many Impressionist artists by paying their rents and buying their art. He also helped organize and finance subsequent exhibitions. Gustave debuted his painting, Raboteurs de Parquet (Floor Scrapers; 1875) at the 2nd Impressionist Exhibition in 1876, after the judges from the Salon rejected it for being too vulgar. Paris Street; Rainy Day, made its debut in 1877 at the 3rd Impressionist Exhibition.

Left: Jeune homme à la fenêtre (1876) by Gustave Caillebotte, Wikimedia Commons

Upper Right: Skiffs (1877) by Gustave Caillebotte, National Gallery of Art

Lower Right: Vue de toits (Effet de neige; 1878) by Gustave Caillebotte, Musée d’Orsay

After several years, Gustave’s interest in art began to wane. He continued to paint, but other hobbies such as yacht building and racing, stamp collecting, and gardening occupied more of his time. In 1894, at age 45, Gustave died from a stroke while tending his garden. His art collection, predominantly made up of paintings from his Impressionist pals, was bequeathed to and reluctantly accepted by the French government. Apparently, Jean-Léon Gérôme and his fellow sticklers at the Salon were quite put out with the Impressionists and their rebellious artistic style. They tried and failed to prevent the French state from accepting Gustave’s collection. Fortunate for us, government officials agreed to take Gustave’s generous donation and to this day these now famous works of art are on display at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

If you’d like to view more of Gustave’s work, click on this Gustave Caillebotte link, courtesy of WikiArt. If you’d like to learn more about the rebellious Impressionists and their impact on the art world, click on this Museum Bites: Coloring Outside the Lines link.

Self-Portrait (c1892) by Gustave Caillebotte, Musée d’Orsay

Fun Arty Fact #2: The intersection featured in Caillebotte’s, Paris Street; Rainy Day is a real place. Located in the 8th arrondissement, the Place de Dublin is just a short walk from the Saint Lazare metro station.

Place de Dublin, Photo by Tangopaso, Wikimedia Commons

That wraps up our ramble through Gustave Caillebotte’s, Paris Street; Rainy Day. If you’re ever in Chicago, I highly recommend you check out Caillebotte’s masterpiece which is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. Measuring 7’ by 10’ the almost life-size scene does not disappoint! I’ll be back next week with more Museum Quick Bites. In the meantime, be safe, be kind, and take care 🙂

Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877) by Gustave Caillebotte on display at the Art Institute of Chicago

Cover photo (cropped) by Anrita1705, courtesy of Pixabay.


Architectural Digest: How Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s Architecture Defined Paris (2018)

Art Institute of Chicago: Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877) by Gustave Caillebotte

Art Institute of Chicago: Gustave Caillebotte

Britannica: Georges-Eugène Haussman

Britannica: Gustave Caillebotte

Brooklyn Museum: Gustave Caillebotte

Khan Academy: Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877) by Gustave Caillebotte

Museum Bites: Coloring Outside the Lines

Musée d’Orsay

My Modern Net: How Haussmann Architecture Transformed All of Paris with Modern Buildings (2019)

My Modern Net: Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877) by Gustave Caillebotte


The Art Story: Gustave Caillebotte

WikiArt: Gustave Caillebotte

Wikimedia Commons: Gustave Caillebotte

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