• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7735

    Impressionist/Modern Evening Sale

    23 June 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 4

    Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894)

    Nature morte aux huîtres

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894)
    Nature morte aux huîtres
    signed 'G. Caillebotte' (upper left)
    oil on canvas
    15 x 21 5/8 in. (38 x 55 cm.)
    Painted in 1881


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    Gustave Caillebotte painted Nature morte aux huîtres in 1881, during a period when he focussed intensely on the still life as a subject. The picture entered the collection of Caillebotte's brother Martial and was exhibited in the artist's posthumous retrospective in 1894 before being acquired by the legendary dealer Ambroise Vollard. The work shows a single place setting at a small table, with a bottle of wine, a folded napkin, lemons and oysters, which had become an expensive delicacy due to overfishing, already served. The table is viewed from the other side, from a raised perspective, with the viewer placed in the position of some passer-by, perhaps even the waiter. Meanwhile, the artist's signature is placed by the chair, implying that the seat may subsequently be occupied by Caillebotte himself. In his analysis of this painting, Douglas W. Druick suggested that this ambiguity, 'can be seen as alluding to [Caillebotte's] dualism as artist-worker and bourgeois collector within the economy of the Impressionist enterprise. Once again he embodied the oppositional dynamic that is at the heart of his most original contributions to the painting of modern life' (D.W. Druick, 'Caillebotte's Still Lifes' in Gustave Caillebotte and the Fashioning of Identity in Impressionist Paris, New Brunswick, 2002, pp. 205-07).

    Of the various artists associated with Impressionism, only Paul Cézanne made the still life a major part of his pictorial explorations of reality. Nevertheless, it provided Caillebotte with a crucial forum for pictorial experimentation, hence Druick's statement that, 'Caillebotte's occasional engagements with the subject of still life in the late 1870s and early 1880s produced some of the most provocatively original compositions within his oeuvre' (ibid, p. 197). Caillebotte explored the theme on several occasions throughout his career, especially in two significant still life campaigns: the first in 1881-82 when Nature morte aux huîtres was painted, the second in his flower pictures of the early 1890s. The still life, which before moving to moving to Petit Gennevilliers he often infused with an urban twist, allowed him to explore innovative compositions, as is demonstrated in this view of a place setting from the 'wrong' side of the table. These compositions were in part based on his experiments with and observations of photography, resulting in their appearing as snap-shots, vignettes of everyday life in Paris, in this case perhaps in a brasserie; the artist's combination of subject matter and composition in Nature morte aux huîtres, lends it a vivid immediacy, using techniques similar to his celebrated 1879 picture, Le déjeuner, which also treated the subject of food and the consumer. Its realism and honesty appear to place it at a distance from the overly-composed still life paintings of oysters of the Dutch Old Masters or even from Manet's sensual and glamorous Huîtres et champagne painted only a few years earlier, revealing Caillebotte bringing his own unique vision to the subject, discarding all precedents and achieving a singularly modern vision, a glimpse of life from the point of view of the Parisian flâneur so celebrated by Charles Baudelaire.
    It is not only a striking portrait of everyday life of modern Paris, but a portrait of the artist's life as well. The new personalisation of still life, using props from the artist's domestic environment (pipes, newspapers and playing cards) was later championed by Braque, Picasso and Matisse, whose use of such everyday objects was crucial to the experiments of the early 20th Century avant-gardes.

    Special Notice

    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 15% on the buyer's premium


    Provenance

    Martial Caillebotte, Paris.
    Ambroise Vollard, Paris, circa 1900.
    Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, London, 2 April 1981, lot 310.
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.


    Saleroom Notice

    Please note the additional exhibition history for this lot:

    Ontario, Art Gallery of Ontario, on loan, March 1982 - June 2005.
    Washington D.C., The Phillips Collection, Impressionist Still Life, September 2001 - January 2002, no. 54; this exhibition later travelled to Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, February - June 2002.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE SWISS COLLECTION


    Literature

    F. Fénéon, 'Les impressionnistes en 1886', in Oeuvres, Paris, 1948, no. 2, p. 88.
    M. Bérhaut, Gustave Caillebotte, catalogue des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1951, no. 166.
    M. Bérhaut, Caillebotte, sa vie et son oeuvre, catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1978, no. 180, p. 55 (illustrated p. 142).
    M.J. de Balanda, Gustave Caillebotte, Lausanne, 1988, p. 110 (illustrated p. 111).
    M. Bérhaut, Gustave Caillebotte, catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1994, no. 195 (illustrated p. 148).
    N. Broude (ed.), Gustave Caillebotte and the Fashioning of Identity in Impressionist Paris, New Brunswick, New Jersey and London, 2002, p. 207 (illustrated fig. 70, dated 'ca. 1880-1882').


    Exhibited

    Paris, Galeries Durand-Ruel, Exposition rétrospective d'oeuvres de Gustave Caillebotte, June 1894, no. 68.
    Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Le pain et le vin, 1954, no. 25.
    Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Gustave Caillebotte, Urban Impressionist, September 1994 - January 1995, no. 91 (illustrated p. 240, dated '1880-1882'); this exhibition later travelled to Chicago, The Art Institute, February - May 1995 and Los Angeles, County Museum of Art, June - September 1995.
    Washington D.C., The Phillips Collection, Impressionist Still Life, September 2001 - January 2002, no. 54; this exhibition later travelled to Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, February - June 2002.
    Lausanne, Fondation de l'Hermitage, Caillebotte, au coeur de l'impressionnisme, June - October 2005, no. 52 (illustrated pp. 102 and 111, dated '1880-1882').