Almost every day that the Caillebotte show has been open to the public, I have been in the galleries—to ponder the works, to give tours, and to talk to our fantastic guards about visitor response. (The guards can tell you how I plague them.) While the installation of an exhibition offers incomparable, exhilarating joy as you work with the exhibition designer and the art handlers to create a distinctive visual narrative, the time spent in the galleries during the run of the show follows shortly thereafter on the fun scale. (Loan paperwork predictably comes in at the bottom of the scale.) Interactions with our visitors—from Caillebotte initiates to die-hard aficionados—are great treats because they prompt fresh observations.
So, with time running out for these face-to-face discussions—the show closes on 5 July!—I urge you to come out here and to let us all know what you see—enter your observations here on this blog or on our digital comment book in the exhibition.
Here are five reasons to come to see this exhibition:
1. A Brooklyn Exclusive!—Brooklyn is the final stop on this tour and the only American venue for this exhibition. Works by Gustave Caillebotte are rare in American museums—even for collections that are otherwise very rich in Impressionism. We have two at Brooklyn, and this makes us very lucky as I soon discovered when I went looking for more to add to our presentation. Most of the paintings in this exhibition come from private collections, so you will likely not see another significant gathering of works by Caillebotte in New York again very soon.
2. And a Journey to France—As Caillebotte moves from Paris to the French countryside and back to Paris, follow his move from early works executed in the studio to those painted on the spot before the motif. Caillebotte paints a France in flux: the newly reconstructed French capital with its broad avenues and regularized façades—the Paris we know today; coastlines developed with getaway homes for the well-to-do; and suburbs caught between leisure pursuits and a burgeoning heavy industry.
3. Art and Design—An avid competitive yachtsman, Caillebotte revolutionized sailboat design, and we are lucky to have six half-models of his designs in the exhibition. Listen to Tom Jackson, Senior Editor of WoodenBoat, eloquently describe the particularities of Caillebotte’s innovations on our cell phone guide. As scholars have noted, Caillebotte’s engagement with yachting prompted complete conceptions as he designed, built, sailed, and, finally, painted his many boats as they cut through the currents of the Seine or quietly bobbed at his dock. In this way, Caillebotte was like Claude Monet who planted elaborate gardens at Giverny and then painted them.
4. Daring Subject Matters—With The Floor Scrapers—one of two paintings devoted to this subject—Caillebotte established his reputation as a painter to watch when he made his debut at the second Impressionist exhibition in 1876. Many conservative writers disliked such scenes of urban labor, but critics allied with the avant-garde applauded the subject drawn from daily life. And Caillebotte’s Factories at Argenteuil (1888) marries a distinctively modern subject with bold paint handling—listen to Paul Tucker’s cell phone commentary on this one, he says it far better than I can.
5. Painter and Patron—Caillebotte played a critical role in the early days of Impressionism as he financially supported his fellow artists and helped to organize their landmark exhibitions. As one of the most significant early collectors of Impressionism, Caillebotte owned now-iconic works by his fellow painters. When he died prematurely in 1894, his collection of paintings by his Impressionist peers passed to the French state and now forms one of the most important core collections at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. You can catch a glimpse of The Ball at the Moulin de la Galette (1876) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir in Caillebotte’s Self-Portrait at the Easel (1879). Notably, Caillebotte paints Renoir’s work in a very distinctive manner, but I will let you discover this on your own!
And please do let us know what you observe! Can’t wait to see what you see!
Judith F. Dolkart joined the Brooklyn Museum in 2000 as Assistant Curator of European Painting and Sculpture and was named Associate Curator in 2006. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts from Harvard-Radcliffe College in 1993, and a Master of Arts in 1997 from the University of Pennsylvania. She is working on a doctoral thesis entitled Dressing the Part: Artists, Allegiance, and Costume during the French Revolution and Empire. Since coming to the Brooklyn Museum, Ms. Dolkart has organized About Time: 700 Years of European Painting and “Michelangelo of the Menagerie”: Bronze Works by Antoine-Louis Barye. Ms. Dolkart is organizing Prodigal Son: James Tissot and the Life of Christ, which debuts at the Brooklyn Museum in October 2009, and travels to three additional venues. Before joining the Brooklyn Museum, Ms. Dolkart was a teaching assistant at the University of Pennsylvania, and she continues to lecture and teach at local secondary schools and colleges. Ms. Dolkart serves as Treasurer and Trustee of the Association of Art Museum Curators.