(b. 1848, Paris, d. 1894, Gennevilliers)
Paris Street, Rainy Day (detail)1877
Oil on canvas
Art Institute, Chicago
This painting is more academic than Impressionist in character. It depicts an intersection near the Saint-Lazare railway station with a wide-angle view.
The lines of receding perspective in Caillebotte's work can often draw us with a disquieting violence into a picture's spatial depth: his perspective recalls the engineer's drawing board. This is true of his large, atmospheric painting of the Place de l'Europe on a rainy day as well. Renoir was to paint a similar scene some years later, but his canvas presented a graceful throng of beautiful women and children. Caillebotte's painting, by contrast, uses wide, open spaces and figural tensions. His people straightforwardly want to get somewhere. The man in the foreground, so close that he is about to step out of the canvas and has had to be cropped below the knee, has the look of a conqueror, the woman on his arm a companion with the air of an afterthought despite her prettiness.