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Paris Street: Rainy Day

Artist: Gustave Caillebotte
Created: 1877
Dimensions (cm): 276.2 x 212.2
Format: Oil on canvas
Location: The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, USA

Paris Street: Rainy Day

In 1877, Gustave Caillebotte created an oil painting entitled ‘Paris Street: Rainy Day’, which was an accurate representation of the “new” Paris that was being built under the Napoleon III government, an endeavour that had started in approximately 1851. The city’s streets and boulevards were widened and lined with modern architecture. The painting’s complex shapes do not conform to impressionism.

This particular scene is located at the intersection near the Saint-Lazare train station. ‘Paris Street: Rainy Day’ portrays the people who lived and worked in the busy city, and commands particular attention to a man and woman walking arm in arm, holding an umbrella against the temperaments of a rainy day. The artist dressed his subjects in high quality apparel in order to emphasize the potential power and wealth of the growing city.

Gustave Caillebotte skilfully used a gaslight to separate the distant background from the foreground, creating a distinctive perception of depth. He subtly produced a grey haze in the background, and a reflection of water on the cobblestones in the foreground, and with the light upon the wet umbrellas, the viewers feel the dampness of the setting. The artist clearly intended the scene to represent a moment in everyday Parisian life.


While reviews were mixed when analysing Caillebotte’s painting skills, Kirk Varnedoe wrote in “Gustave Caillebotte: Urban Impressionist”: “He had neither Edgar Degas's skills as a draftsman nor Monet's as a colorist, and his development was not as extensive as those of his fellows. Yet comparing picture for picture - and speaking both as a historian of modern art and on more purely subjective aesthetic grounds I would value any one of Caillebotte's best works (e.g., Floor Scrapers, Young Man at His Window, Boulevard Seen from Above, and especially the monumental Pont de l'Europe and Paris Street: Rainy Day) as a more important, original, and rewarding painting than any Pissarro, all but a handful of Renoirs, and a fair number of Monet’s from the same period.”

‘Paris Street: Rainy Day’ by Gustave Caillebotte is currently located at the Art Institute of Chicago, U.S.A.


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