Paris Street, Rainy Day

7:00 AM

Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street; Rainy Day, 1877

Caillebotte was an outsider among the Impressionists; a lawyer from a wealthy family who espoused the ideals of the Impressionist movement, but whose flat, exacting style of painting had more to do with Realism. Living off a large inheritance from his parents, he pursued painting and gardening as hobbies while buying artwork from his colleagues, amassing a sizable collection of Impressionist work. His own paintings were influenced by the growing art of photography, using tricks like cropping, tilted floors, and high vantage points to create unusual and precise perspectives.

Paris Street, Rainy Day prominently showcases the new boulevards and changes to the cityscape taking place during this period. The “Haussmanization” of Paris meant great leaps forward in urban planning, bringing new public parks, monuments, facilities, and more. The sharp, geometric buildings of this intersection near the Gare St-Lazare tower over the disproportionately small people in the streets. As the scene extends back into the distance, it blurs, mimicking the limited depth of field of a photograph. The flatness of the shading evokes, more than anything, more modern artists like Edward Hopper, not Impressionism. The unusually detached crowd move like sleepwalkers, none of them making eye contact. In fact, the three people in the right foreground are about to unwittingly collide. The overall effect comes off as carefully planned, but still amazingly spontaneous; the viewer feels as though they have stepped outside on a rainy day in Paris to marvel at the grand façades of their modern city.

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