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oil on canvas
41 7⁄8 x 29 ¾ in. (106.2 x 75.3 cm.)
Painted circa 1892
The artist’s estate.
Private collection, Paris, by 1978.
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. 323.
M. Bérhaut, Caillebotte: Sa vie et son œuvre, Catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1978, no. 432, p. 226 (illustrated).
M. Bérhaut, Gustave Caillebotte: Catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1994, no. 453, p. 239 (illustrated).
Indianapolis, Museum of Art, on long term loan from October 1991 until June 2003.
Chicago, The Art Institute, February - May 1995, no. 116, p. 306 (illustrated p. 307; illustrated again as a frontispiece).
Lausanne, Fondation de l’Hermitage, Gustave Caillebotte: Au cœur de l’Impressionnisme, June - October 2005, no. 92, p. 187 (illustrated p. 121).
Tokyo, Bridgestone Museum of Art, Ishibashi Foundation, Gustave Caillebotte: Impressionist in Modern Paris, October - December 2013, no. 61, pp. 178 & 267 (illustrated p. 179).
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse, January - April 2016, no. 25, p. 113 (illustrated; illustrated again as a frontispiece).
Giverny, Musée des impressionnismes, Japonismes / Impressionnismes, March - July 2018, no. 114, pp. 161 & 211 (illustrated p. 161); this exhibition later travelled to Remagen, Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck, August 2018 - January 2019.
Further details
The Comité Caillebotte has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Keith Gill Head of Department

Lot Essay

Painted in 1892, Gustave Caillebotte’s Capucines captures the self-seeding nasturtium growing with abandon. Floating atop a diaphanous, pearlescent ground, the stems spread elegantly and extensively. In its reimagining of the landscape genre, here, there is no earth or sky, but rather simply a lattice of greenery which the artist has rendered as delicate as filigree. Caillebotte’s gardening hobby developed more fully after he moved permanently to Petit-Gennevilliers, his property outside Paris, in 1887. There his interest in depicting flowers emerged in parallel to a growing devotion to horticulture, a motif he shared with his fellow Impressionists, particularly Claude Monet. Photographs taken by Caillebotte’s brother, as well as the artist’s own paintings, show the property’s kitchen garden, greenhouse dedicated to delicate plants, and bushes of dahlias, roses, chrysanthemums, and hyacinths that bordered his studio and house; planted amongst these less formal beds were the nasturtiums that fill Capucines.
Like his friend Monet at his home in Giverny, Caillebotte too controlled the natural environment of Petit-Gennevilliers which he in turn used as inspiration for his paintings. Owing to their mutual passion for gardening and boating, Caillebotte and Monet shared a close friendship and established a strong exchange of correspondence during the 1880s and 1890s. In letters, they discussed what flowers were in bloom, annuals and perennials, and their own enthusiasm for ‘la décoration florale’ of their respective homes (M. Berhaut, Gustave Caillebotte, catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1994, p. 278). Comparisons have been drawn between Caillebotte’s flower paintings and Monet’s Nymphéas, with both artists ‘offering an abstracting and decontextualised vision of a specific floral element taken from their own respective gardens' (S. Raybone, Gustave Caillebotte: As Worker, Collector, Painter, London, 2020, p. 149).
Both Caillebotte and Monet created interior designs based upon the flowers they cultivated: ‘the attraction to the decorative’ as such ‘moved from the garden to the house, from nature into art’ (A. Distel et al., Gustave Caillebotte: Urban Impressionist, exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 1994, p. 302). While there are surviving photographs of Monet’s interiors at Giverny, little is known about Caillebotte’s plans for Petit-Gennevilliers, a result of the artist’s premature death in 1894 and the subsequent razing of the house. Extant images reveal that he was in the process of translating some of his garden’s flowers into ornamental panels and had painted a series of orchids and daisies which were to be used to adorn the doors of the dining room; Capucines would have served as a compliment to these works, and a second, smaller variation on the subject was also created contemporaneously.
Stylistically, Capucines drew from several sources beyond Caillebotte’s own plein air observations. The composition’s weightlessness and asymmetry evokes the Japanese woodblock prints that were in vogue during this period. After trade between Japan and the West resumed in 1853, imports began to flood Europe, including the ukiyo-e woodblock prints that would inspire the then-emerging circle of Impressionists. From such images, artists such as Monet and Edgar Degas transformed their treatment of space by introducing new vantage points, alternate perspectives, and cropped compositions. Certainly, the allover composition of Capucines suggests a novel understanding of depth and representation, one more closely aligned to wallpaper patterning than the ‘figure-to-ground relationships’ found in more traditional easel paintings (ibid.). It also foreshadows the radical stylistic developments that would redefine painting in the coming century, particularly works by the Colour Field artists.
In addition to the new pictorial strategies encouraged by Japonisme, the widespread use of photography also impacted formal considerations. Although there is no direct evidence that Caillebotte practised photography, several of his Impressionist contemporaries had taken up the hobby as had his brother Martial in 1891, shortly before Capucines was created; Caillebotte himself had an extensive collection of photographs. Photography was, by this time, revolutionising visual aesthetics and changing modes of perception. As Karin Sagner explains, ‘Caillebotte used classical composition methods as well as aspects of the realistic medium of photography, in the process defamiliarizing space and perspective in an unusual manner, while at the same time treating colour and light in the Impressionist fashion. He reveals himself in consequences as an altogether original talent among the pioneers of the first historic avant-garde’ (K. Sagner, ‘Gustave Caillebotte – an Impressionist and Photography’, in Gustave Caillebotte: An Impressionist and Photography, exh. cat., Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2013, pp. 18-19).
Through such pictorial innovations, Caillebotte brought new energy to the at times staid genre of the still life. Throughout much of the history of academic art, still lifes were considered a lowly choice, removed, as it were, from the majesty of history paintings or the pomp of the portrait. Instead, flowers had domestic, and thus feminine, connotations, but as with so many of his other subjects, Caillebotte sought to subvert such long held, conservative associations. In his embrace of photographic and printmaking conventions, Caillebotte reimagined the potential and potency of flowers – and infused the subject with new life.
Indeed, for many Impressionists, the floral motif was a site of radical invention. As John House has argued, the Impressionist garden was first and foremost an ‘imaginative space’ that encouraged experimentation (J. House, ‘The Imaginative Space of the Impressionist Garden’, in S. Schulze, ed., The Painter’s Garden: Design, Inspiration, Delight, Ostfildern, 2006, p. 70). With its abundance of colour and texture, the garden offered a backdrop onto which artists could contend with a variety of thematic and chromatic concerns. While Monet has long exemplified the wealth that the garden could offer artistically, he was far from the only painter who turned to nature in a quest for new visual material. Nor was his art so siloed. Beyond lengthy letters replete with questions about plants and gardening, Caillebotte also gave Monet Chrysanthèmes blancs et jaunes, Jardin du Petit Gennevilliers (Berhaut, no. 488), now in the collection of the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris. In 1896, following Caillebotte’s death, Monet executed four related panels whose vertical formal no doubt paid homage to his friend and fellow gardening enthusiast.

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