by marissa bea
Amidst the winding hallways, and seemingly endless construction, the Brooklyn Museum holds a little diamond in the rough, all the way up on the 5th floor. Gustave Caillebotte was an impressionist painter, younger than many of the old masters of Impressionism, and more well known as a collector and patron of the arts than for his own works. Caillebotte was, however, quite a significant artist in his own time, and continues to run under the radar of popular art, remaining elusive and yet strikingly important.
It is a small exhibition, with just about 40 pieces, but it does a very decent job of showing off the prowess of a man who, nowadays, is not remembered by most. He is often recognizable by his bizarre perspective and oddball view of the world in his paintings. Much of his early inspiration comes from the RealistGustave Courbet and Jean-François Millet. Also, take the time to read the informational panels on the walls. Not only was Caillebotte a gifted artist, but he led quite the interesting life; nearly the idyllic artist’s life. He had talent, money and the ability to do what he wished with both. Because he was financially independent, he could afford to help his fellow painters by purchasing their works and paying for exhibition spaces, something that is not often seen as very noteworthy. But in the art world, to have a patron be a peer is quite a rare animal. movement, with artists like
Caillebotte was also an accomplished sailor, but at his death he was best known for his boat craftsman skills and was regaled as an innovator and pioneer. This exhibition actually includes not just paintings, but a group of models of boats that Caillebotte either owned or designed, a nice touch added by the curators to help give the viewer an idea of this man’s life and interests. Very often artists are only remembered in terms of the paintings or drawings they produce, and not for what their hobbies and other passions were, and this helps to provide a broader look at who the man was.
An exhibition like this is important for more than one reason. It is the first exhibition for Caillebotte since the very first retrospective more than 30 years ago, which also happened in the Brooklyn Museum. It will give you a much greater appreciation for the Impressionist movement in general, and introduce you to one of them who isn’t Monet or Degas. Caillebotte’s talent runs the same line as the “greats,” and he did much more for art than many know. The Impressionists were an enormous influence on the art of the 20th century and Caillebotte was no less of a figurehead than others, and his art and life should be remembered as such. The exhibition runs through July 5th.