5 Things to Know About Gustave Caillebotte

21 Aug 2022 | 1 Comments

Gustave Caillebotte is one of the best-known artists of the 19th century. He was a painter, who portrayed the everyday lives of the people of Paris - from its workers to its wealthy merchant classes, which he happened to have been born into.

He sadly died of pulmonary congestion at the age of just 45. But in his short career, he managed to create some of the most memorable paintings in the history of French Art. 

Here are 5 things that you should know about this iconic painter. 

1. Did Gustave Caillebotte Have Wealthy Parents?

The Caillebotte family home.

Yes, Caillebotte’s father not only inherited a successful textile business, but he was also a lawyer at the city’s Tribunal de Commerce. This meant that Caillebotte was not only well educated but that he mixed in some pretty well-to-do circles. 

His family had a series of impressive homes in the city of Paris, and also a pleasant (and rather large) holiday home on the outskirts of the city in Yerres. It’s often thought that it was here where Caillebotte picked up the painting bug, inspired by the surroundings of their getaway villa. 

2. Was Caillebotte Just a Painter?

His passion for engineering always shone through.

As mentioned above, Caillebotte’s upbringing meant that there were certain social pressures on him to achieve success both academically and economically. It was for this reason that he followed in his father’s footsteps and trained as a lawyer.

He earned his degree in Law at the age of 20 and went on to begin practicing as a lawyer 2 years later. Ever the bright spark, he also trained as an engineer! 

He didn’t attend art school until almost 10 years later, when he enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts.

3. Who was Caillebotte friends with?

Caillebotte enjoying lunch with Renoir and friends.

It was around this time, that he began to make friends with a number of equally successful and well-known artists who had made Paris their home int he late 1800s. 

Caillebotte was particularly pally with Auguste Renoir and Edgar Degas. 

In fact, Renoir’s most famous painting, Luncheon on the Boating Party actually includes a depiction of Caillebotte. Other than showing that the two were good friends, it says something as to the lavish lifestyle of wealthy Parisiens at the time!

4. Did Caillebotte collect art as well as paint it himself?

He loved his stamps!

Caillebotte was a bit of a hoarder.

At the end of the day, he had plenty of cash to burn, and he would spend it on collecting everything from art, to stamps… even rare orchids!

As an art collector, he was a well-known supporter of many of his artist friends and collected works by the likes of Renoir, Pissarro, and Monet.

At one point, he even paid Monet’s rent for his studio, so that he could continue to keep pursuing his career as an artist. 

He also enjoyed building sailing yachts in his spare time (the inner engineer obviously needed an outlet!) and he even had an interest in textile design and fashion - no doubt a legacy of his old family business.

Amazingly, his efforts as a stamp collector meant that he was listed in the British Library’s Roll of Distinguished Philatelists - apparently, this is the fancy word for stamp collectors - for having one of the most significant collections in recent history.

5. When did Caillebotte Retire?

One of Caillebotte's later paintings of his beloved garden.

One of the most impressive things about Gustave Caillebotte’s career is that he managed to create the majority of his most reconginsed work in a relatively short period of time. 

Gustave had pretty much hung up his painting smock by the age of just 34 - which wasn’t too long after he’d enrolled in the school of art! 

He continued to paint for himself but didn’t show anything publicly (let’s be honest, he didn’t need the money!) after 1882.

He increasingly worked, in private, on smaller and smaller canvases until his untimely death at the age of just 45.

The amazing thing about Caillebotte was that he remained relatively uncelebrated as an artist in the years that followed his death. He was much better known as a patron and collector of art, and as an important friend of those artists whom he mixed with and supported.

Thankfully, though, in the 20th century, his work began to receive much more recognition, and nowadays he is rightfully considered one of France’s greatest ever painters! 

Gwyn Jones

Heyyyyy . . .. .. great! I'm embarrassed to say that I've never heard of him.The garden painting is ADORABLE: I will certainly try to find more images of his work. Thanks for the short tour.

Share your thoughts