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Le chien ‘Paul’

Le chien ‘Paul’
inscribed ‘PAUL’ (upper right)
oil on canvas
25 ¾ x 21 ¾ in. (65.4 x 54.2 cm.)
Painted in Paris circa 1886
The artist’s estate.
Private collection, Paris.
Galerie Lorenceau, Paris.
Acquired from the above on 12 September 1983, and thence by descent to the present owners.
M. Bérhaut, Rétrospective Gustave Caillebotte, exh. cat., Paris, 1951, no. 268.
M. Bérhaut, Caillebotte: Sa vie et son œuvre, Catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1978, no. 297, p. 181 (illustrated).
M.-J. de Balanda, Gustave Caillebotte: La vie, la technique, l'œuvre peint, Lausanne, 1988, p. 152 (illustrated p. 153).
M. Bérhaut, Gustave Caillebotte: Catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1994, no. 340, p. 200 (illustrated).
Lausanne, Fondation de l’Hermitage, Caillebotte: Au cœur de l’impressionnisme, June - October 2005, no. 73, p. 186 (illustrated p. 83).
Further details
The Comité Caillebotte has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Keith Gill Head of Department

Lot Essay

Paul, the titular canine of Gustave Caillebotte’s Le chien 'Paul', in fact belonged to the artist’s brother, Martial Caillebotte. Sleek and elegant, Caillebotte painted the dog in front of an elegant tapestry; the mottled patterning resembles the carpet which can be seen in Déjeuner (Berhaut, no. 37; Private collection), the artist’s 1876 depiction of domestic bourgeois life set in the family’s elegant home at 77 rue de Miromesnil. In the uppermost corner of the present work, Caillebotte inscribed Paul’s name in gilded letters recalling those found in Byzantine icons or medieval crests. The font echoes what would have been engraved on Paul’s collar as well as the glint in his eyes, which ‘illuminates his intelligent gaze’ (M. de Balanda, Gustave Caillebotte: La vie, la technique, l’œuvre peint, Lausanne, 1988, p. 152).
Never a professional portraitist, Caillebotte predominantly painted only close friends and family and choosing to depict Paul would have aligned with this tendency. Indeed, contemporaneously to Le chien 'Paul', Caillebotte created La chienne Charlotte (Berhaut, no. 339; private collection), a portrait of the dog belonging to his companion Anne-Marie Hagen, known as Charlotte Bertheir. More broadly, dogs were a regular presence in the artist’s paintings, featuring in, among others, Le Pont de l'Europe, 1876 (Berhaut, no. 49) and Les Orangers, 1878 (Berhaut, no. 114) held in the collections of the Musée du Petit Palais, Geneva and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, respectively.
Although art history is replete with images of canines, it wasn’t until the latter half of the 18th century that standalone paintings of dogs themselves gained popularity. In England, those wealthy enough to commission portraits of man’s best friend did, often acquiring paintings of their hunting partners. Artists such as George Stubbs created anatomical wonders in oil paint, capturing in detail a dog’s musculature and physique while posing his subjects in front of grand landscapes as if they themselves were kings and queens. Across the Channel in France, dogs were the favoured companions for the wealthy and aristocratic and were often included in portraits of their masters, a pictorial tradition which has been maintained for centuries. Indeed, fascinated by the modern world, French Impressionists saw the dog as a status symbol of bourgeois life. As these artists cast their eyes towards the domestic realm, it now seems almost inevitable that they would incorporate canines into their paintings.
Caillebotte himself came from a wealthy family but ‘maintained an ambivalent and conflictive relationship to his own class identity’ (T. Garb, ‘Gustave Caillebotte’s Male Figures: Masculinity, Muscularity and Modernity’, in T. Garb, Bodies of Modernity: Figure and Flesh in Fin-de-Siècle France, London, 1998, p. 41). While many of his paintings make clear such contradictions and uncertainty, this is exceedingly apparent in his portraits of his social milieu. At once tongue-in-cheek and lovingly rendered, his painting of Paul is likewise revealing and tells as much about the artist himself as his working methods. In Le chien 'Paul', Caillebotte played with colour and shadow, juxtaposing the smoothness of the greyhound’s body with the textured carpet atop which the dog has been posed. Such contrast – between the meticulous collar and looser, more abstracted ground – was a hallmark of the artist’s oeuvre, under-scoring his penchant for painterly experimentation in both technique and motif.

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