The Caillebotte Brothers Private World Painter and Photographer
Paris 25 March to 11 July 2011, the Jacquemart-André Museum is presenting The Caillebotte Brothers’ Private World. Painter and Photographer. An encounter between Impressionism and photography, this exhibition evokes the artistic and private world of the Caillebotte brothers.
This original perspective of Gustave’s paintings and Martial’s photography invites the visitor to enter the private world of a large Parisian family and explore the new urban lifestyle which was taking hold at the dawn of the XXth century. The Caillebotte brothers became witnesses of a period that was undergoing a major urban and technological transformation, and a way of life often illustrated by Impressionist artists.
An original exhibition
Gustave Caillebotte’s reputation for his talent as a painter and his role as patron of his Impressionist friends is well established. We also know that he had great affection for his brother Martial. But Martial himself, composer, pianist and photographer, remained relatively unknown.
However, a recent study of Martial’s photographic collection has revealed a great awareness of the subjects represented in the paintings of his brother Gustave: the views of Paris, the sailing boats, the gardens and the river banks. This discovery has enabled the Jacquemart-André Museum to do what no other museum has done before: compare Martial’s photographs directly with Gustave’s works.
Thanks to some exceptional loans from private and public collections, the exhibition reveals the underlying similarities between the Caillebotte brothers, by hanging 35 paintings alongside almost 150 modern prints for the first time. These prints were taken from Martial’s originals. Some of the paintings, which belong to private collections, have never been shown in public before.
A tale of family, a tale of friendship
Gustave (1848-1894) and Martial (1853-1910), and their brother René (1851-1876), were the children of Martial Caillebotte and Céleste Daufresne. Their half-brother from a previous marriage, Alfred Caillebotte (1834-1896) was ordained as a priest in 1858. An entrepreneur who made beds for the military, Martial Caillebotte Senior left a large fortune to his sons on his death in 1874. From that moment on, Gustave devoted himself to painting, while Martial dedicated himself to music. He composed several pieces for the piano (Airs de ballets, 1887) and some religious music, before discovering photography.
Gustave and Martial remained very close, having been marked by the death of their brother René in 1876 and their mother in 1878. The two brothers lived together and moved in the same circle of artists until Martial married in 1887. Two children were born of this marriage: Jean in 1888 and Geneviève in 1889. Gustave however remained a bachelor. On Gustave’s death in 1894, Martial, with Renoir’s help, made the necessary arrangements for the state to accept the bequest of the Impressionist paintings owned by his brother.
Gustave and Martial Caillebotte shared a number of enthusiasms. They became expert philatelists with their stamp collection. When Gustave became interested in horticulture, Martial photographed him at work in the garden or the greenhouse. Together they learned how to sail a yacht. Martial distinguished himself in all fields, for example winning several regattas in the sailing boats designed by Gustave.
The Caillebotte brothers depicted these shared interests in their painting and photography, thereby recreating the multiple aspects of their environment. With delicate touches, they evoke the gentle pace that characterised their lavish lifestyle, from Haussmann’s new Paris to family leisure pursuits.
Living in the new districts designed by Baron Haussmann, Gustave and Martial were privileged witnesses of the urban transformation which Paris underwent during this period. They were fascinated by symbols of modernity such as bridges and railways, and the hustle and bustle of the Parisian streets was one of their favourite themes. They were also very interested in outdoor activities. While gardening might have attracted their attention, the two sailing enthusiasts particularly enjoyed depicting sailing boats, boaters and bathers.
But they also cast a tender and sometimes amused eye on their friends and family, whose peaceful occupations they illustrated in a private setting. The days revolved around lunches and card parties, walks and reading: all themes that the brothers were particularly fond of.
Marco de Rivera