Gustave Caillebotte (1848 - 1894), Paris, 1880
oil on canvas,
65.6 cm x 54.9 cm
Credits (obliged to state): Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (purchased with support from the BankGiro Loterij, the Vincent van Gogh Foundation, the Mondriaan Fund, the Rembrandt Association, with the additional support from the Prins Bernard Cultuurfonds, and the VSB Foundation)
The French artist Gustave Caillebotte painted the view from his Paris balcony in 1880. The real subject of the painting, though, is the balcony itself, the cast-iron curls of which form a decorative pattern that fills the picture plane. In the distance we make out Boulevard Hausmann with a carriage, an advertising column and passers-by.
Caillebotte used dark colours to emphasize the centrality of the railing. It stands out sharply against the street scene, which he painted in pastel tones. The bold composition was inspired by Japanese prints, the abrupt cropping, high vantage points and solid colours of which made them an important source for artists looking for a modern style.
Van Gogh was intrigued by Caillebotte’s work. The announcement of an exhibition prompted him to write to his brother Theo: ‘there’ll be some works by Caillebotte – I’ve never seen anything of his, and wanted to ask you to write and tell me what they’re like.’