Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Painter's Eyes

The handsome Gustave Caillebotte wasn't your usual artist. He was rich, for one thing. He was also - among other things - a balladeer in paint of  modern urban life in 19th century Paris. The National Gallery of Art through October 4 is giving a fresh view of the man whose initial offering for the prestigious government-run Salon in 1875 was rejected out of hand.  The picture, prophetically enough, shows three shirtless men, their bodies highlighted by window light, scraping the floors of an empty room. We see little of the men's faces; the work is a cacophony of lines - long strong arms, circles and rectangles on walls and window, straight markings on the wood. Facial expressions and the human form are subservient to his  theme, which is almost architectural in spirit. A gorgeous display of fruit for sale on a market stall is a formal composition, as is the picture of a man and woman shown in an interior space and the view of pedestrians outflanked by the girders of a steel bridge over the Seine. Umbrellas seem more important than the people in one of his most famous works: 'Paris Street, Rainy Day.' And just as striking is the highly evocative scene from above of a traffic island on the Boulevard Haussmann. The latter is  'modern' enough as to be abstract art.
These impressionist painters always had their eye on the future when drawing portraits of contemporary life. 

No comments:

Post a Comment