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Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894)
Property from a Distinguished European Collection
Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894)

Rive de la Seine au Petit-Gennevilliers

Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894)
Rive de la Seine au Petit-Gennevilliers
stamped with signature ‘G Caillebotte’ (lower right)
oil on canvas
23 ¾ x 28 7/8 in. (60.3 x 73.3 cm.)
Painted circa 1888
Estate of the artist.
Ernest Maurice, St. Germain-en-Laye.
Private collection, Belgium (by descent from the above).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.

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Max Carter
Max Carter

Lot Essay

The Comité Caillebotte has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Painted in 1888, Gustave Caillebotte’s Rive de la Seine au Petit-Gennevilliers presents a peaceful view of the quiet stretch of the Seine the artist called home during the final decade of his life. The family estate at Yerres, which had inspired so many of the artist’s early compositions, had been sold in 1878 following the death of the artist’s mother, and in search of a new retreat from Parisian life, Caillebotte and his brother Martial decided to purchase a property on the banks of the river Seine, choosing the small town of Petit-Gennevilliers, a quieter, and more rustic, hamlet than its bustling neighbour Argenteuil. Situated roughly half an hour from the capital by train, this stretch of the Seine had become a popular hub for day-trippers from Paris during the second-half of the 19th-century, drawn to the area’s mixture of open countryside, scenic walks and pleasure boating. While the artist may have become familiar with the locale through his fellow Impressionist, Claude Monet, who had based himself in Argenteuil in 1871 and painted the town and its environs extensively, it was most likely Caillebotte’s bourgeoning passion for yachting which drew him to settle there during the opening years of the 1880s.
Though he only acquired his first racing boat, the Iris, in 1878, Caillebotte had thrown himself headlong into the sport with a feverish zeal, 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 sailing. His life soon came to revolve around the rhythms of the yachting season, with the artist travelling to compete in numerous regattas along the Seine and the Normandy coast at different times of the year. The new property at Petit-Gennevilliers not only offered him direct access to the river at its deepest and broadest stretch, it was also located close to the marina of the prestigious yachting organisation, the Cercle de la Voile of which Caillebotte was a member, and the bustling shipyards and workshops that had sprung up in response to the growing popularity of boating in the area. Here, Caillebotte would spend his days meandering along the river banks, setting sail upon the water to test his latest boat-design, and tending to his flourishing gardens, finding in this peaceful environment a myriad of motifs that would fuel his painterly output for years to come.
In Rive de la Seine au Petit-Gennevilliers Caillebotte presents a peaceful vision of life on this stretch of the Seine, away from the hustle and bustle of the boatyards and the crowds of fashionable Parisians that filled the riverbanks every weekend. The composition is divided into a sequence of four horizontal bands—the riverbank in the foreground, the shimmering surface of the waterway at the centre, the houses and promenade on the opposite shore, and the vast expanse of the cloudless sky above—receding backwards to create a carefully structured spatial environment. Employing a vivid, fresh palette and lively, loose brushwork, the painting is a resplendent study of the nuances of sunlight on a typical summer day, its beams falling through the leaves of the trees and onto the grassy bank before the artist, creating pools of sunshine on the otherwise shaded stretch of land. The soft, hazy blue sky and quiet, sun-dappled waterway are typical of the Impressionist vision of the Seine, though the presence of the red-roofed, sun-bleached cluster of buildings on the opposite bank may also be a subtle acknowledgement of the transformation of Argenteuil and Petit-Gennevilliers into bustling suburbs during the 1870s and early 1880s, their formerly pristine landscapes now filled with summer homes and growing local industry.
While the scene contains echoes of Monet’s visions of Argenteuil in particular, Rive de la Seine au Petit-Gennevilliers also captures the heightened individualism of Caillebotte’s painterly style during this period, not only in the brightness of his colors, but also in his choice of bold viewpoints and unconventional vistas. Here, the manner in which the buildings are glimpsed through a series of small gaps between the slender tree trunks lends the scene a dynamic sense of movement, as if the artist has captured a snapshot of the view mid-stroll. By placing the trees in an a-symmetrical compositional arrangement, he plays with the traditions of the classical repoussoir framing device, positioning the houses off-centre, and allowing the tree itself to occupy the central axis of the canvas instead. At the same time, Caillebotte uses a radical cropping technique along the left edge of the composition, so that the next tree along is only indicated by the presence of its verdant branches, glimpsed at the upper left corner of the canvas as they mingle with the foliage of the central sapling. In this way, Caillebotte creates an impression of his own movement through the landscape, wandering along the river banks, glancing at the rippling, ever-changing surface of the river through the trees, captivated by the unexpected views he encounters along the way.

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