Vincent van Gogh has gone down in Art History as one of the clearest examples of great artists who never sold a painting. But he has not been the only one. He also never sold anything FrenchmanGustave Caillebotte. Although to be fair it must be said that the economic situation of both was very different, since Caillebotte enjoyed a very comfortable situation. In fact, he is almost better known as a patron of his friendsImpressioniststhan as a painter. And the truth is that although he did not sell anything, it was his descendants who were in charge of making a profit from his paintings, once he gained more popularity. And a good example is this work from 1877 that today is treasured by the Art Institute of Chicago.
A Rainy Day by Caillebotte
As in so many other works, Caillebotte shows us how a painter very close to his contemporaries Monet or Renoir, and in this case he presents us with an urban landscape, in which we see the most modern Paris of his time. A space in the French capital whose development had been promoted by the government of Napoleon III and directed by Baron George Eugene Haussmann.
This urban development and the modernity of certain elements such as gas lamps, captured all the interest of the artist. And with all this he created a view in which he presents us with a very interesting game of perspective, whereprecisely that lamppost plays a key role as a vertical line that divides the large canvas into two halves. To one side with the couple under the umbrella occupying much of the space. And on the other with the street view of the square where the straight lines of several avenues converge.
But actually, there are not only two halves from the vertical line of the streetlight. We can also draw a horizontal line that runs through the center of the image, and that would pass through the heads of practically all the people in the scene, regardless of their distance from the foreground.
That is to say, there is an interesting interplay of straight and four-quarter lines in the canvas, but it is not obvious at first glance, thanks to the perspectives, the bright cobblestones of the street and the curves provided by the different umbrella, which incidentally had been invented very recently in 1877.
To that we must add the very photographic framing that he has chosen. It is as if he had taken a snapshot of the place. Although we know that he made various sketches of the view, and several of them from the elevated height provided by the new urban means of transport of the time: the bus.
In short, just like other of his works such as the Parquet Slashers or the Argenteuil Regatta, Caillebotte appears to us as an Impressionist paintervery interesting, and sometimes battered by history and overshadowed by other contemporary geniuses.