Gustave Caillebotte ( 1848 - 1894 )

Baigneur s’apprêtant à plonger, 1878

Baigneur s’apprêtant à plonger, 1878

black pencil on paper
15 ¾ x 10 ¼ in. (40 x 26 cm.)
signed G. Caillebotte lower centre

Private Collection, France;
Neffe-Degandt Fine Art, London;
acquired from the above in 2002, thence by descent.

Paris l'été. À la Grenouillière, in ‘La Vie Moderne’, 17 July 1880 (illustrated);
A. Tabarent, Les Peintures à la campagne, in ‘Le Bulletin de la vie artistique’, 1 September 1921 (illustrated);
M. Berhaut, Caillebotte, sa vie et son oeuvre, Catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1978, pp. 113 and 266, no. 90A (reproduction from La Vie Moderne illustrated, p. 113);
P. Wittmer, Caillebotte au jardin. La période d'Yerres: 1860-1879, Saint-Rémy-en-l'Eau, 1990, p. 174 and 332 (illustrated, p. 174);
M. Berhaut, Gustave Caillebotte - Catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1994, pp. 118 and 306, no. 119A (illustrated, p. 118).

Gustave Caillebotte was an invaluable exponent in the Impressionist movement, revered as much as a patron and benefactor to the group, as well as an active member himself. Rich and well connected, he played a crucial role in organising and financing the eight Impressionist exhibitions and showed his own work in five of them (1876, 1877, 1879, 1880 and 1882). He collected paintings by his fellow artists from the mid-1870s onwards both for their quality and to support his friends, and upon his untimely death in 1894, he bequeathed the collection of nearly sixty works to the French State, for display in the Musée du Luxembourg. The Caillebotte bequest forms the heart of the Impressionist collection to be found in the Musée d’Orsay today.

Caillebotte’s father was a successful entrepreneur and investor who purchased an estate at Yerres to the south-east of Paris. The house and its grounds were the setting for many of Caillebotte’s paintings in the 1870s, including this baigneur, drawn from a large painting executed there in 1878. This was the final summer he would spend at the family home before it was sold in 1879 after his mother’s death. Several of Caillebotte’s greatest paintings come from this period including The Floor Scrapers (Musée d’Orsay) and Les Orangers (MFA Houston), both created in the summer of 1878.

Much like his close associate Degas, Caillebotte delighted in depicting contemporary subject matter, engaging in whatever he saw before him. This accounts for the unusual perspectives and compositions found in his works, as in this drawing where the diver faces away from the viewer, poised to dive out of the picture space. To accurately depict these complex spaces, he made many preparatory pencil studies, designing the scene like a set stage. This drawing was in fact made after the painting to be engraved and illustrated in La Vie Modern a major journal of the time and a testament to the popularity of the picture. Caillebotte explored the subject of the diving figure in several other pictures, notably a fine pastel drawing from 1877 today in the Musée d’Orsay.

Gustave Caillebotte