3 More

Portrait d’Eugène Daufresne lisant

Portrait d’Eugène Daufresne lisant
signed and dated ‘G Caillebotte 1878’ (lower left)
oil on canvas
39 ½ x 32 in. (100.1 x 81.2 cm.)
Painted on Rue de Miromesnil, Paris in 1878
Eugène Daufresne [the sitter], Paris.
Martial Caillebotte [the artist’s brother], Paris, by descent from the above circa 1896.
Private collection, by descent from the above.
Galerie Lorenceau, Paris, by whom acquired from the above in 1966.
Acquired from the above on 22 July 1966, and thence by descent to the present owners.
Bertall, ‘Exposition des Indépendants, Ex-Impressionistes, demain Intentionists,’ in L’Artiste, Paris, 1 June 1879, p. 193.
M. Bérhaut, Rétrospective Gustave Caillebotte, exh. cat., Paris, 1951, no. 71 (titled 'Portrait de M. D...').
M. Bérhaut, Caillebotte: Sa vie et son œuvre, Catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1978, no. 80, p. 109 (illustrated).
K. Adler, Unknown Impressionists, Oxford, 1988 (illustrated pl. 71.)
A. Jolles, ed., Gustave Caillebotte: Urban Impressionist, exh. cat., Paris, 1994, p. 181 (illustrated fig. 3).
M. Bérhaut, Gustave Caillebotte: Catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1994, no. 109, p. 114 (illustrated).
Paris, Quatrième exposition de peinture [The Fourth Impressionist Exhibition], April - May 1879, no. 18 (titled 'Portrait de M.E.D').
Paris, Galeries Durand-Ruel, Exposition rétrospective d'œuvres de G. Caillebotte, June 1894, no. 66 (incorrectly titled 'Portrait de M. E. B.').
Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, on long term loan from 1979 until at least 1995.
Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art, The New Painting: Impressionism 1874-1886, January - April 1986, no. 69, pp. 266 & 274 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to San Francisco, The Fine Arts Museum, April - July 1986.
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Gustave Caillebotte: The Unknown Impressionist, March - June 1996, no. 24 (illustrated p. 124).
Lausanne, Fondation de l’Hermitage, Caillebotte: Au cœur de l’Impressionnisme, June - October 2005, no. 31, p. 183 (illustrated p. 76).
Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André, Dans l’intimité des frères Caillebotte, peintre et photographe, March - July 2011, no. 21, p. 94 (illustrated p. 95); this exhibition later travelled to Québec, Musée national des beaux-arts, October 2011 - January 2012.
Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle, Gustave Caillebotte: An Impressionist and Photography, October 2012 - January 2013, no. 117, p. 236 (illustrated p. 159).
Tokyo, Bridgestone Museum of Art, Ishibashi Foundation, Gustave Caillebotte: Impressionist in Modern Paris, October - December 2013, no. 9, pp. 70, 257 & 258 (illustrated p. 71).
Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art, Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter’s Eye, June - October 2015, no. 24, p. 277 (illustrated p. 173); this exhibition later travelled to Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum, November 2015 - February 2016.
Further details
The Comité Caillebotte has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

This work has been requested for the upcoming exhibition Gustave Caillebotte: Painting Men to be held at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and The Art Institute of Chicago from October 2024 to October 2025.
Sale room notice
Please note this work has been requested for the upcoming exhibition Gustave Caillebotte: Painting Men to be held at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles and The Art Institute of Chicago from October 2024 to October 2025.

Brought to you by

Keith Gill
Keith Gill Head of Department

Lot Essay

Gustave Caillebotte’s Portrait d’Eugène Daufresne lisant captures the artist’s evolving politics of social representation. Set in the Caillebotte family home at 77 rue de Miromesnil in Paris’ 8th arrondissement, Portrait d’Eugène Daufresne lisant was painted in 1878. Eugène Daufresne was a cousin of Caillebotte’s mother and a devoted collector of his work; he owned, in addition to this portrait, nine other paintings by the artist including Les raboteurs de parquet (Berhaut, no. 34), now in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay. Seated in an ornate bergère chair, Daufresne is calm and peaceful in the present work, illuminated by a soft light shining through an unseen window. This is a fashionable room whose lavish décor, sumptuous textiles and subtle boiserie all point to bourgeoise comfort. Though this initially appears to be a fairly traditional portrait, in fact, in its interrogation of economic and social class, Portrait d’Eugène Daufresne lisant is a wholly modern portrait that captures the truth of a person and their milieu.
Caillebotte’s father, Martial, had purchased the plot of land on which the house stood in 1866 for nearly 150,00 francs, and taking up much of the site was the four-story hȏtel whose construction he oversaw. It had two carriage entrances, private stables, a billiard room, library, gallery, central heating, and electric call buttons situated throughout. This was the family’s first real home and it served as the setting for several paintings created by the artist including Jeune homme à sa fenêtre (Berhaut, no. 32; private collection) and Jeune homme au piano (Berhaut, no. 36), now in the collection of the Artizon Museum, Tokyo.
Daufresne was not known to be a regular presence at 77 rue de Miromesnil, yet his relaxed pose reveals that he is a welcomed visitor. Owing to the date of the work, it is likely that Portrait d’Eugène Daufresne lisant was executed either just before or directly after Madame Caillebotte’s death on 20 October 1878; the Miromesnil property was put up for sale in February the following year. Such timing might also explain Caillebotte’s decision to pose Daufresne in the same chair where he had painted his mother one year earlier. In Portrait de Madame Martial Caillebotte (Berhaut, no. 58; private collection), the painting’s triangular compositional device depicts its protagonist frontally at work at her needlepoint. The painting conflates ideas around labour and ‘luxury crafts’, a duality underscored by the juxtaposition of affluency with the sewing basket and scissors (G. Groom, ‘Portrait of Mme Martial Caillebotte’, in Gustave Caillebotte: Urban Impressionist, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago, 1995, p. 196). Although the pose was evidently premeditated – a scholarly conjecture further supported by the suggestion that she is embroidering a pattern of the artist’s own design – Caillebotte’s application of paint varies from meticulous to loose and experimental, as seen, for example, in the patterning of the seatback cushion. By the time he painted Portrait d’Eugène Daufresne lisant, labour had been entirely replaced by leisure.
As the title indicates, Daufresne, in Portrait d’Eugène Daufresne lisant, is reading, engrossed by the novel he holds in both hands. The small book’s yellow cover would have been instantly identifiable to contemporaneous audiences as one distributed by Bibliothèque Charpentier, the principal publisher of naturalist novels. Naturalism as a movement developed in reaction to Romanticism, gaining popularity during the late-19th century, and its authors, led by Émile Zola and Joris-Karl Huysmans, sought to truthfully represent reality without passing moral judgement. Naturalism’s tenets spread to the fine arts, and Caillebotte’s paintings were seen as particularly emblematic of the movement. As Michael Marrinan observed, Caillebotte was ‘at home among an international group of writers who… called for an art that not only recorded the visible, but also spoke to the invisible workings of inner life that could not be seen’ (M. Marrinan, Gustave Caillebotte: Painting The Paris of Naturalism, 1872-1887, Los Angeles, 2016, p. 5).
Caillebotte endeavoured to show the reality of his world, the banal and the opulent. The art critic Louis Emile Edmond Duranty wrote that ‘in actuality, a person never appears against neutral or vague backgrounds,’ a sense that is acutely apparent in Portrait d’Eugène Daufresne lisant wherein the precisely rendered details locate the sitter in his socioeconomic milieu' (L. Duranty, ‘The New Painting: Concerning the Group of Artists Exhibiting at the Durand-Ruel Galleries’, 1876, in The New Painting: Impressionism 1874-1886, exh. cat., The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1986, p. 44). Selfhood, as Duranty observed, is far from static, and understanding a person’s social class and way of being is always contingent upon a myriad of factors that range from the sartorial to the linguistic. Neutrality in portraiture is far from useful or even possible. As Duranty went on to write, ‘In real life views of things and people are manifested in a thousand unexpected ways. Our vantage point is not always located in the centre of a room whose two side walls converge toward the back wall; the lines of sight and angles of cornices do not always join with mathematical regularity of symmetry’ (ibid., p. 45). In the example of Portrait d’Eugène Daufresne lisant, these trappings point to a life of comfort and privilege; here, Caillebotte says, is a bourgeois gentleman.
The portraits that Caillebotte painted between 1877 and 1885 were critically successful in part owing to the ‘quiet radicalism’ that manifested Duranty’s theories on representation (M. Morton, ‘Caillebotte in Contemporary Criticism’, in M. Morton and G. Shackleford, Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter’s Eye, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2016, p. 64). Critics noticed the varied colour palette that the artist employed, specifically his use of blue-purples, and the relationship between sitter and seat. As Charles Albert d'Arnoux, known as Bertall, observed, ‘They sit on strange couches in fantastic poses,’ (Bertall, ‘Exposition des indepéndants Ex-Impressionistes, demain intentionistes’, 1879, reprinted in op. cit., 1996, vol. 1, p. 212). In response to Portrait d’Eugène Daufresne lisant specifically, he wrote of ‘…an uncle seated in an armchair that threatens to collapse’ (ibid.). Following their presentation in the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition in 1879, these paintings, including Portrait d’Eugène Daufresne lisant, were applauded for their truthfulness: they represented ‘not just heads but lives, souls, feelings’ (Bachaumont, ‘Notes parisiennes’, 1879 reprinted in ibid., vol. 1, p. 210).
As these works predominantly featured Caillebotte’s family and close friends – mostly urbane, upper middle class men – the ease between artist and subject is unmistakable. He often depicted his sitters within the domestic sphere of the urban apartment, a ‘strategy’ argues Mary Morton, ‘more common in portraits of women’ (M. Morton, ‘Viewing Others: Portraits’, in op. cit., 2016 p. 163). The motif of a figure seated in a chair is one with a long art historical precedent used by artists from Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres to Édouard Manet and Lucian Freud. It was a means of positioning a subject against a neutral, albeit romanticised setting.
Caillebotte’s paintings, however, do not flatter or pander; their aim is not to idealise but to suggest an intimacy born out of frank observation. Instead of reproducing the strict dictums that had for so long governed portraiture, Caillebotte incorporated a psychological dimension into his portraits that was hitherto unseen. Whereas academic portraitists could at times deaden their subjects, Caillebotte animated his sitters by painting them naturally and without artifice. Moreover, though the standards of portraiture by the 1870s had loosened, many still advocated for more conventional configurations wherein a subject was positioned against a neutral ground. In his efforts to capture both a personal closeness and a social awareness, Caillebotte did no such thing and instead chose to place his sitters within the world from which they came.
Far from neutral likenesses, Caillebotte’s portraits instead interrogated ‘the social anxieties of his milieu’, a theme the artist would return to again in two years’ time with his second series of interior views (E. Benjamin, ‘All the Discomforts of Home: Caillebotte and the Nineteenth-century Bourgeois Interior’, in ibid., p. 86). Caillebotte was frequently required to move between multiple worlds, a negotiation which offered him a unique perspective on class and social standing. These shifting registers are present in Portrait d’Eugène Daufresne lisant in which Caillebotte, argues Michael Marrinan, replaced the ‘bourgeois industriousness of his mother with the gripping imaginary experience conjured up by a work of strictly non-bourgeois literature’ and in doing so, ‘turn[ed] his back on all that his father’s house and property represented in the world of upper-class Paris’ (op. cit., 2016, p. 201). Interestingly, Caillebotte chose to paint Daufresne not in his own apartment, where he would be surrounded by his belongings, but rather at 77 rue de Miromesnil, a choice which indicates how comfortable the subject was amongst the opulence of the Caillebotte family home.
By making the bourgeois interior – and thus bourgeois life – an important motif of his practice, Caillebotte elevated the subject and argued for its importance alongside and in addition to other scenes of contemporary life. This was to remain an important subject throughout his practice, and a means in which the artist challenged conventions and more firmly aligned himself with Naturalism. As Kirk Varnedoe has written, ‘The intriguing circumstances of Caillebotte’s life as a wealthy young man in the midst of a contested avant-garde struggle, and certainly his comprehension of the complexities of Paris in his day, must lie behind and bear on all the pictures he made’ (K. Varnedoe, ‘Odd Man In’, in op. cit., 1995, p. 13).
Following the sale of 77 rue de Miromesnil, Caillebotte and his brother Martial moved into a larger apartment at 31 boulevard Haussmann which overlooked the Opéra. Yet despite this world of extravagance, what makes Caillebotte and his practice so intriguing is exactly this: that he could occupy different spaces and so seamlessly. That is, Caillebotte brought to the fore that which lay beneath the surface, no matter how painful, broken, or beautiful. He created thoroughly modern pictures, works that did not shy away from their economic or social position. Caillebotte’s paintings, in short, told the truth of the world.

More from Masterpieces from the Collection of Sam Josefowitz: A Lifetime of Discovery and Scholarship

View All
View All