Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894)
Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894)

Etude pour Portrait de Paul Hugot

Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894)
Etude pour Portrait de Paul Hugot
stamped with signature 'G. Caillebotte' (lower left)
pencil on paper squared for transfer
18 x 11 ¾ in. (45.8 x 29.8 cm.)
Drawn in 1878
Estate of the artist.
Galerie Brame et Lorenceau, Paris.
Acquired from the above by Achim Moeller Fine Art on behalf of John C. Whitehead, 1989.
K. Varnedoe, Gustave Caillebotte, New Haven, 1987, p. 118, no. 30a (illustrated).
J. Chardeau, Les dessins de Caillebotte, Paris, 1989, p. 82 (illustrated in color).
Houston, The Museum of Fine Arts and The Brooklyn Museum, Gustave Caillebotte, A Retrospective Exhibition, October 1976-April 1977, p. 190, no. D.25 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Brame et Lorenceau, Gustave Caillebotte, Dessins, études, peintures, February-March 1989 (illustrated, pl. C).
New York, Achim Moeller Fine Art, Private Views, 19th and 20th Century European and American Masters, Fifth Anniversary Exhibition, March-May 1989, no. 1 (illustrated; illustrated again on the back cover).
New York, Achim Moeller Fine Art, The Whitehead Collection, Late 19th and 20th Century French Masters, A Collection in Progress, April-May 1997, p. 53, no. 38 (illustrated).
New York, Achim Moeller Fine Art, From Daumier to Matisse, Selections from the John C. Whitehead Collection, May 2002, pp. 38 and 75, no. 4 (illustrated in color, p. 39).
Lausanne, Fondation de l'Hermitage, Caillebotte, Au coeur de l'Impressionnisme, June-October 2005, p. 184, no. 36 (illustrated in color, p. 54).
New York, Achim Moeller Fine Art, From Daumier to Matisse, French Master Drawings from the John C. Whitehead Collection, April-May 2010, pp. 13 and 22, no. 4 (illustrated in color, p. 23).

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Morgan Schoonhoven
Morgan Schoonhoven

Lot Essay

The Comité Caillebotte has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Gustave Caillebotte exhibited the portrait of his close friend, Paul Hugot, at the Fifth Impressionist Exhibition in 1880 (Bérhaut, 1994, no. 111; fig. 1). The painting's impressive life-size scale and its setting against a space-less background heightened its impact as an image of the fashionable Parisian male. Contemporary critics were swift to recognize its distinction. Armand Silvestre wrote in an article preceding the exhibition that the portrait’s “head recalls, by modeling, the manner of Fantin-Latour, and the whole figure is well treated, with independence and vigor at the same time. It is by far [Caillebotte’s] best piece” (“Le monde des arts, Exposition de la rue des Pyramides,” La vie moderne, Paris, 1880, p. 262). The present drawing represents an important step in the evolution of that final oil painting.
The development of the painting has been studied in detail by Peter Galassi, who points out that the work has much in common with other major works by the artist such as Rue de Paris, temps de pluie (Bérhaut, 1994, no. 57) in that its origins can be linked to an optical device or a photograph. The present drawing was preceded by a much smaller sketch executed on tracing paper. Galassi describes the small size of this initial drawing is “suggestive of a photographic source. The finished painting measures 294 by 92 cm., but the preparation for it began with this drawing on tracing paper, whose ruled borders measure 14 by 7.2 cm. The vertical dimension of the drawing is precisely that of a cabinet photograph, which by 1880 had replaced the smaller carte de visite as the most popular portrait format. The tracing paper drawing, squared for enlargement, clearly served as the basis for the much larger intermediate [drawing], which might otherwise appear to be a life drawing. Without the explanation of a photograph, Caillebotte’s choice of such a small format to begin work on such a large picture would seem curious” (K. Varnedoe, op. cit., pp. 27-28).
The way in which the silhouetted figure in the preparatory drawing was carried over into the final painting has drawn comparisons to Edouard Manet. However, as Thomas P. Lee points out, the “handsome and sympathetic portrait of Paul Hugot has a different quality of realism…the painting was conceived as an exercise in finding a reality in the synthetic whole of the figure. All the elements of Hugot’s attire are treated with an equal stress” (exh. cat., op. cit., 1976, p. 134). The artist here paid particular attention to his friend's elegant appearance and included details that would perhaps capture some of his intellectual interests, as suggested by the letter tucked into his waistcoat along with his crisp top hat and smart walking stick.

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