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Tag Archives: Realist Painters

La Place de l'Europe, temps de pluie (Gustave Caillebotte, 1877)

This very simple image from a relatively obscure French painter is one that I’ve counted among my favorites for a long time. La Place de l’Europe, temps de pluie, which translates roughly into The Europe Square, Rain, was painted by Gustave Caillebotte in 1877. The Art Institute of Chicago, where I saw this painting a decade ago, has it labeled Paris Street, Rainy Day. Sometimes, I guess, the value of titles can be overblown.

The painter, who died on this day in 1894, is counted among the French Impressionists but I see him as more of a realist. His association with the Impressionists comes mainly from exhibiting and hanging out with them and borrowing things from their styles.

I came to like Caillebotte as I began to learn more about him. He was wealthy and painted for the pure love of it. He was also an avid photographer interested in photography and you can see the influence photography had in his paintings. In his day he was far better known as an art collector and patron than as an artist in his own right. He was the classic dilettante.

I was a bit surprised when I saw this painting in Chicago because I had previously not known that it was an actual painting. I’d seen the image a lot, but because no one had ever bothered to mention the painter’s name, I just assumed that it was one of those fake knock-off decorations that they sell at places like Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I thought wrong, as it turns out. and it was pretty inspiring to see it. It is, an a word, HUGE, over nine feet wide. Much bigger than those posters at Deck the Walls.

If I could paint, I could be very happy painting scenes like this one, scenes of everyday life in real and beautiful places. This way, I could leave out the things I didn’t like and I wouldn’t be distracted by ugliness and decay. Then,  if I could, I would like to sit around and drink red wine and talk art and politics and literature with my sophisticated friends. I think I’m well-suited to the life of a dilettante, I just never had the money.