Property from a Private Swiss Collector
Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894)

Hors d'oeuvre

Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894)
Hors d'oeuvre
stamped with signature 'G. Caillebotte' (lower right)
oil on canvas
9 5/8 x 21 3/8 in. (24.4 x 54.4 cm.)
Painted in 1881
Martial Caillebotte, Paris (by descent from the artist, 1894).
Anon. sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 4 December 1950.
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York.
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner, 1958.
M. Berhaut, La vie et l'oeuvre de Gustave Caillebotte, Paris, 1951, no. 165.
M. Berhaut, Caillebotte, sa vie et son oeuvre: Catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1978, p. 152, no. 209 (illustrated; dated 1882).
M. Berhaut, Gustave Caillebotte: Catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1994, p. 149, no. 198 (illustrated; dated 1881).
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Exposition rétrospective d'oeuvres de G. Caillebotte, June 1894, no. 110.
Paris, Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Gustave Caillebotte, rétrospective, May-July 1951, no. 165.
East Hampton, Guild Hall, Pleasures of Summer, July-August 1958, no. 11.
Washington, The Phillips Collection and Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Still Life, September 2001-June 2002, p. 199, p. 55 (illustrated in color, p. 132; dated circa 1881-1882).
Lausanne, Fondation de l'Hermitage, Gustave Caillebotte, entre tradition et modernité, June-October 2005, p. 109, fig. 9 (illustrated).
Sale room notice
Please note that this work has been requested for the exhibition, A Feast for the Eyes--Food in Still Life, to be held at the Kunstforum in Vienna from February--May 2010.

Lot Essay

The Impressionists often turned to still life painting and exhibited works in this genre, having learned that domestic still lifes tended to be more salable than their landscapes. Only Cézanne made the still life a major focus of endeavor--working in isolation and without regard for commercial viability, he used simple, everyday objects as a means to analyzing the nature of perception, and from these observations he proceeded to develop a new kind of pictorial reality. Caillebotte's still lifes, though fewer in number, were as distinctive and in their way no less original.

Caillebotte explored the still life as a specific theme in two series of paintings during the course of his career, the first in 1881-1883, to which period the present painting belongs, and the second as a group of flower paintings done in 1893. The later sequence of canvases is exquisitely realized, while retaining a conventional approach to subject and formal design. The earlier group, however, is altogether more exceptional; indeed, they are unlike most all other Impressionist still life paintings. Caillebotte often chose his subjects from very different sources than his colleagues, and he created an entirely modern and unprecedented spatial context for them. His subjects are varied--some are familiar within the traditions of the genre, while others are quite novel and unexpected, such as the four platters of dinner hors-d'oeuvres seen in the present painting. The consistent factor in the presentation of most of these audacious pictures is Caillebotte's adoption of an arbitrary and often startling point-of-view. He employed radical cropping and unusually proportioned canvas sizes to create a compressed, horizonless and immediately close-up sense of space. His striking compositions appear to presage the Pop still-lifes of Wayne Thiebaud (fig. 1).

Caillebotte's early 1880s still lifes display an orderly plan--an idiosyncratic, calculated, almost mathematical and geometric design--not seen in the more casual arrangements of typical Impressionist works in this genre. He was in fact the consummate urban Impressionist--even his country landscapes show a city-dweller's attentiveness to systematic perspective and a penchant for visualizing and superimposing an architectural sense of design on all things, whether natural or man-made. In the present painting he becomes something of an early minimalist as well.

A dedicated flâneur, Caillebotte was an avid walker on Baron Haussmann's newly widened boulevards, where he browsed among the arcades, shops and les grands magasins, the large new department stores. It was here that he derived inspiration for many of his still lifes, and certainly the one seen here. These huge emporiums catered to the growing bourgeois taste for consuming manufactured products, luxury goods, professionally prepared charcuterie, cakes and other gourmet delights. The development of large sheets of plate glass enabled store-owners to create extravagant and finely orchestrated window displays for their wares, and advertising was rapidly becoming an applied art form in its own right. Painters might bring their skills to bear on the art of window-dressing, as Dalí and Warhol would do in the next century, merging the worlds of fine and commercial art. They updated the academic traditions of the nature morte and transformed them into the art of the window display. And then in Caillebotte's uniquely modern table-top arrangements, assembled from the "pop" subject matter of his day, this process may be observed in reverse: the practical concerns of the window-dresser have filtered into the painter's approach to the classic domestic still life.

(fig. 1) Wayne Thiebaud, Triangle Thins, 1963. Private Collection. BARCODE: 24402132

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