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Verger aux pommiers en fleurs, Colombes

Verger aux pommiers en fleurs, Colombes
signed ‘G. Caillebotte’ (lower left)
oil on canvas
23 ¾ x 32 ¼ in. (60.1 x 81.6 cm.)
Painted in 1883
Ambroise Vollard, Paris.
Anonymous sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 16 May 1956, lot 71.
Francisco 'Paco' Rebes, Barcelona & New York.
Galerie Malingue, Paris, on consignment from the above.
Acquired from the above on 17 May 1984, and thence by descent to the present owners.
M. Bérhaut, Caillebotte: Sa vie et son œuvre, catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1978, no. 254, p. 167 (illustrated).
M.-J. de Balanda, Gustave Caillebotte: La vie, la technique, l’œuvre peint, Lausanne, 1988, p. 120 (illustrated p. 121; dated 'vers 1883').
J.-J. Lévêque, Les années impressionnistes, 1870-1889, Paris, 1990, p. 465 (illustrated).
M. Bérhaut, Gustave Caillebotte: catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1994, no. 266, p. 173 (illustrated).
C. Shields, ed., Impressionism in the Age of Industry, exh. cat., Toronto, 2019, p. 208 (illustrated).
London, Royal Academy of Arts, From Manet to Gauguin: Masterpieces from Swiss Private Collections, June - October 1995, no. 161.
Tokyo, Sezon Museum of Art, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from Swiss Private Collections, October 1995 – January 1996, no. 3, p. 42 (illustrated p. 43); this exhibition later travelled to Nagoya, Matsuzakaya Museum of Art, February – March 1996.
Giverny, Musée des impressionnismes, Caillebotte, peintre et jardinier, March – July 2016, no. 50, p. 150 (illustrated pp. 102 & 103).
Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, on long term loan, from November 2017 until August 2023.
Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Impressionism in the Age of Industry: Monet, Pissarro and more, February - May 2019.
Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Steam: Impressionist Painting Across the Atlantic, November 2022 - August 2023.
Further details
The Comité Caillebotte has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Lot Essay

In May 1881, Gustave Caillebotte and his brother Martial purchased a house on the banks of the river Seine, just a few kilometres from Paris. The family estate at Yerres, which had inspired so many of the artist’s early works, had been sold in 1878. In search of a new retreat from the commotion and hum of Parisian life, the brothers set their eyes on the quiet, rustic hamlet of Petit-Gennevilliers. Situated roughly half an hour from the capital by train, this stretch of the Seine had become a popular destination for Parisians during the late-19th century, drawn to the region’s mixture of bucolic countryside and pleasure boating.
While Caillebotte may have become familiar with the area through his fellow Impressionist Claude Monet, it is likely that his own passion for yachting was what made Petit-Gennevilliers so attractive. Indeed, the Caillebotte brothers were likely drawn to the property’s proximity to Argenteuil, then a hub for sailing regattas. Continued infighting amongst the founding members of Impressionism further encouraged the artist’s withdrawal from the artistic world of Paris. Though he continued to paint in the Impressionist style – and enjoyed his plein air motifs – he increasingly retreated to the countryside. For six or so years, Caillebotte divided his time between the French capital and Petit-Gennevilliers before purchasing his brother’s share of the property and moving there permanently in 1887.
At his home in Petit-Gennevilliers, Caillebotte could pursue his twin interests in sailing and gardening, and gradually, he made the landscape his principal subject. Like his friend Monet, Caillebotte, too, was a dedicated gardener and devoted many hours to cultivating dahlias, chrysanthemums, irises, and a whole assortment of other plants in his greenhouse and various beds, giving him the reputation of a ‘wise lover of gardens’ (G. Geffroy, Claude Monet, sa vie, son oeuvre, 1924, quoted in M. Berhaut, Gustave Caillebotte, Catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1994, p. 45). Just as Monet did at Giverny so too did Caillebotte transform Petit-Gennevilliers into his own artistic crucible, a space which he both shaped and painted at the same time.
While the floral abundance of Petit-Gennevilliers was to become a principal subject for the artist, he did not limit himself to the boundaries of his property. Rather, as in Normandy where he had roamed the cliffs and hillsides around Trouville, spending countless hours painting the verdant, flowering landscapes of northern France, he too continued to explore all that the Val-d'Oise had to offer. Painted in 1883, Verger aux pommiers en fleurs, Colombes was created just a short ways down the river Seine.
Verger aux pommiers en fleurs, Colombes, which Marie-Josèph de Balanda called an ‘extraordinarily graceful’ painting, was painted just to the south of Petit-Gennevilliers outside the village of Colombes (M. de Balanda, Gustave Caillebotte : La vie, la technique, l’œuvre peint, Lausanne, 1988, p. 120). Apple trees sway ever so slightly beneath a luminous blue sky, their white, radiant blossoms redolent of spring. Tree branches arc eloquently, and the ‘subtlety’ of Caillebotte’s brushwork ‘makes the light vibrate across the trembling leaves whose violet shadows move in concert with the soil and air’ (ibid.). This explosion of spring has been translated as an exuberant flurry of rapid brushwork and bright, intoxicating colour. As the acclaimed 19th century art critic Jules-Antoine Castagnary wrote of Verger aux pommiers en fleurs, Colombes, ‘The fragrances, colours, and sounds respond to one another’ and in this way, Caillebotte has rendered ‘not simply the scenery but the sensations produced by the landscape’ (ibid.).
As in so many of Caillebotte’s paintings, the human figure is absent from Verger aux pommiers en fleurs, Colombes, but in the background there is a small church which serves as a reminder of larger society. Both its sharp steeple as well as those of the various posts jutting out from the soil introduce more severe verticals into a composition otherwise replete with whimsical rhythms and soft touches. Indeed, the linear diagonal suggested by the posts is a hallmark of Caillebotte’s work, what Peter Galassi and Kirk Vardenoe called his ‘looming foregrounds, tiny backgrounds, and exaggerated convergences’ (K. Varnedoe and P. Galassi, ‘Caillebotte’s Space’, in K. Varnedoe, Gustave Caillebotte, New Haven, 1987, p. 20).
The subject of the blossoming fruit tree was one which had long captivated other Impressionist artists, including Monet, Camille Pissarro, and Alfred Sisley, and in his choice of motif, Caillebotte followed in their footsteps. Yet he remained faithful to his dizzying perspectives and rolling horizons and was becoming increasingly attuned to colour’s properties and potentials. In this way, Verger aux pommiers en fleurs, Colombes should be placed in dialogue with Vincent van Gogh’s series of orchard paintings he made not long after his arrival in Arles in 1888. Witnessing first-hand the bright sun and vivid green shoots of grass, Van Gogh intensified his palette to fully convey the atmosphere that spread out before him. It was this sensitivity to landscape that lent Van Gogh’s orchards such an intensity of feeling, the same specificity of place that marks Verger aux pommiers en fleurs, Colombes. The painting is a resplendent study of springtime, its glorious crystalline light and joyful optimism. Caillebotte vividly captures the sensation of the changing seasons, and in the apple tree’s cheerful blossoms reside the painter’s joy at seeing the blooming world.

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