Caillebotte drew Luncheon not long after his father died. The viewer becomes a guest at the table where Caillebotte's younger brother, Rene, dives into his food, not waiting on the butler to finish serving his mother. A year later, Rene was dead at age 25 which led Gustave to write his will early, including disposition of his art collection.
Gustave Caillebotte, Self Portrait, 1888-1889, Private Collection
The Floor Scrapers, a scene the painter may have drawn from his own studio and considered Caillebotte's first masterpiece, was rejected by the Paris art establishment in 1875 because the workers were considered "vulgar," and not acceptable as representatives in art of the working class. Only peasants and farmers were sanctioned.
I like to think of Mr. Caillebotte as a feminist. Compare Man on a Balcony with Interior, Woman at the Window. Note the man's cavalier stance, his debonair position of strength and confidence as he gazes out upon the Paris scene below. "Harrumph," he seems to complain: "What manner goes here? I do not know if I approve." Perhaps there are too many floor scrapers idling at lunch,
Meanwhile, in contrast is the woman, above, in funereal garb, standing in her "cage," the railing which is much higher than the man's, mind adrift, thinking, perhaps, "what if?" while looking out beyond to the figure in the window across the way. Adjacent there in the chair is her keeper and bored husband: "Shhhh! Can't you see I am reading?" his position suggests.
The Gallery wall label says these two paintings may have been a pair.
And what in the world do you make of this little shrimp of a man lying on the sofa, about half the size of the woman in the chair? He reminds me of The Incredible Shrinking Man, and maybe that's what he is to his mate. The same couple pictured in Interior, Woman at the Window (above)? As the length of their relationship grows, his importance diminishes.
Gustave Caillebotte, The Bridge at Argenteuil, 1883, Private Collection
Gustave Caillebotte, The Fields, a Plain in Gennevilliers, Study in Yellow and Green, 1884, Collection of Frederic C. Hamilton, Bequest to the Denver Art Museum
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