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Le bassin d'Argenteuil

Le bassin d'Argenteuil
oil on canvas
25 3/4 x 32 in. (65.5 x 81.4 cm.)
Painted in Petit Gennevilliers circa 1882-1883
Estate of the artist.
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired from the above, 15 June 1894).
Jean-Baptiste Faure, Paris (acquired from the above, 16 June 1894).
Louis Maurice and Louise Victoria Faure, Paris (by descent from the above, until at least 1924).
Private collection, United States.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 14 May 1985, lot 7.
Samuel Josefowitz, Lausanne (acquired at the above sale).
Private collection, Europe; sale, Christie's, New York, 7 May 2002, lot 17.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
J.-B. Faure, Notice sur la collection J.-B. Faure, suivie du catalogue des tableaux formant cette collection, Paris, 1902, no. 2 (dated 1872).
J. Rewald, The History of Impressionism, New York, 1946, p. 292 (illustrated; dated circa 1874).
J. Rewald, The History of Impressionism, New York, 1973, p. 350 (illustrated; dated circa 1874).
M. Berhaut, Caillebotte: Sa vie et son œuvre, catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1978, pp. 14 and 159, no. 230 (illustrated in color, p. 67; illustrated again, p. 159).
M. Berhaut and S. Pietri, Gustave Caillebotte: Catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1994, p. 156, no. 216 (illustrated; illustrated again in color on the frontispiece).
M. Morton and G.T.M. Shackelford, Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter's Eye, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2015, p. 248 (illustrated, fig. 9).
D. Marchesseau, ed., Gustave Caillebotte: Impressionniste et moderne, exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Martigny, 2021, p. 198 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Exposition rétrospective d'œuvres de G. Caillebotte, June 1894, p. 6, no. 75 (titled Bateaux à Argenteuil and dated 1888).
Paris, Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées, Société du Salon d'Automne: Caillebotte, exposition rétrospective, August 1921, p. 335, no. 2727.
Osaka Umeda, Daimaru Museum; Tokyo National Museum of Western Art; Fukushima, Prefectural Museum of Art and Sapporo, Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, Trésors du Musée Petit Palais, May-August 1983, no. 59.
London, Hayward Gallery and Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Landscapes of France: Impressionism and its Rivals, May 1995-January 1996, p. 266, no. 101 (illustrated in color, p. 267).
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Gustave Caillebotte: The Unknown Impressionist, March-June 1996, p. 184, no. 44 (illustrated in color, p. 185; dated circa 1888).
Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection, Impressionist on the Seine: A Celebration of Renoir's 'Luncheon of the Boating Party,' September 1996-February 1997, no. 55 (illustrated; dated 1882).
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.
Further details
The Comité Caillebotte has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Brought to you by

Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of Department, Impressionist & Modern Art, New York

Lot Essay

In 1881 Gustave Caillebotte and his brother Martial purchased a house in the quiet enclave of Petit Gennevilliers, just across the river Seine from the bourgeoning suburb of Argenteuil. Retiring from the chaos of Parisian life, and in particular the politics and machinations of the city’s artistic scene, Caillebotte settled into the rhythms of Petit Gennevilliers with ease, spending his days engaged in his favorite pastimes of sailing, gardening and painting. This proximity to the Seine supplied the artist with a range of new subjects, as he came to know intimately the many different facets of life on the river. Among the earliest compositions that Caillebotte created following his move, Le bassin d’Argenteuil captures a serene view of the Seine, looking upstream from the riverbank at Petit Gennevilliers towards the rhythmic arches of the famous highway bridge in the distance. A cluster of boats bob gently along with the current, casting shimmering ribbons of colorful reflections across the surface of the water, imbuing the scene with a rich sense of ephemeral, fleeting movement that captivates the eye.
The title of the present work places us at the very heart of this stretch of the Seine, a place synonymous with the birth of Impressionism—the Argenteuil basin marked the point at which the river was wider and deeper than anywhere else in the vicinity of Paris, and river traffic was unobstructed by either islets or sandbars. As a result, it had become a popular site for recreational boating during the second half of the nineteenth century, drawing visitors and day-trippers from the capital in their droves. This portion of the river had been chosen as the site for the sailing competition during the Exposition Universelle of 1867, and an 1870 guidebook reported that as many as two hundred boats were tied up along the waterfront in and around Argenteuil. For artists, the bracing sight of these sailboats as they tacked the breadth of the river to catch the strong breezes that circulated through the basin provided an intriguing, dynamic subject, inspiring artists such as Edouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Claude Monet, who was based in Argenteuil for several years during the 1870s. No less fascinating to observe were the craft at their waterfront moorings, their elongated forms and tall masts providing a variety of potential compositional arrangements, as were the fashionable visitors on their short sojourns to Argenteuil, as they took in a spot of pleasure boating, or merely contemplated the landscape from the banks of the river. From his home in Petit Gennevilliers, it was only a short walk for Caillebotte to reach the mooring places, docks and boat yards on the river, and such close proximity allowed him the opportunity to study at length the unique patterns and rhythms of the Seine first-hand.
Caillebotte’s passion for sailing ran deeper than that of many of his Impressionist colleagues. As a youth, he would spend hours watching the water-based traffic as it passed by his family’s country estate on the banks of the river Yerres, and he soon became a keen rower, inspired by the light skiffs which were a familiar sight as they skimmed past. Caillebotte’s interest in sailing soon shifted from rowing to the rapidly developing sport of yachting. Acquiring his first racing boat, the Iris, in 1878, he threw himself headlong into the sport and within a few short years had risen to become one of the most influential yachtsmen in France, not only in terms of his success in competition, but also in his role as a revolutionary boat designer and as a financial backer of several important associations and publications dedicated to the sport. His life was increasingly organized around the annual events of the boating season, travelling across France to participate in the most important races, while his move to Petit Gennevilliers may have been inspired in part by the presence of the largest and most prestigious sailing club in the capital, the Cercle de la Voile de Paris, in nearby Argenteuil. This passion for sailing granted Caillebotte a greater appreciation for the intricacies and details of the boats that populated this stretch of the river, focusing on elements that were often overlooked by others, such as the exact proportions of a racing yacht, the elegant shape of a hull, or the particular pattern of lines that made up the rigging.
In Le bassin d’Argenteuil Caillebotte draws our attention to the quiet stillness of the Seine during a less busy moment of the day, perhaps early in the morning, before traffic on the waterway has started to build. Positioning himself on the Petite Gennevilliers bank, Caillebotte adopts an expansive view that takes in the full-width of the river—from the small patch of grass in the immediate foreground, the eye passes across the glass-like surface of the Seine, filled with dancing reflections, to the copse of trees that shade the fashionable promenade on the opposite bank. A group of boats are anchored along this side of the river, their sails tightly furled as they bob gently along with the movements of the water, while a pair of white, rectangular laundry houses float serenely along the opposite bank. The diagonal arrangement of these boats generates a dynamic sense of recession within the scene, leading the eye upstream towards the bridge in the distance, and on to the hilly terrain beyond. Using flickering, fluid brushstrokes that ripple across the canvas, Caillebotte captures the river in an array of intense tones, from deep purples to turquoise, burgundy to golden yellow, each stroke of pigment imbuing the scene with a luminosity and vibrancy that stands apart from the more delicate, subdued palettes of several of Caillebotte’s contemporaries.
Le bassin d’Argenteuil featured in the important retrospective exhibition of Caillebotte’s work at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in Paris in June 1894, just four months after the artist’s untimely death. This seminal show, which spanned the full breadth of Caillebotte’s oeuvre, was partially overshadowed by news of the artist’s controversial bequest of his vast collection of Impressionist paintings to the French State. Nevertheless, Durand-Ruel sold several key works to a number of important collectors shortly after the exhibition closed, including the present painting which was purchased by the renowned French baritone Jean-Baptiste Faure. While Faure’s collecting journey had begun in the 1860s, with purchases of works by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Eugène Delacroix and Jean-François Millet, he sold his entire holdings of Barbizon School paintings at auction in 1873 and began to focus exclusively on the work of the Impressionists, often buying paintings directly from the artists he favored. By the 1890s, he had acquired more than sixty paintings by Edouard Manet, between fifty and sixty each by Monet and Alfred Sisley, around twenty-five by Camille Pissarro, and at least ten by Edgar Degas. Faure appears to have held a particular penchant for Caillebotte’s views of the Seine—alongside Le bassin d’Argenteuil, he owned two other views of the river by the artist, one from 1883 and another from 1891.

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