Thursday, July 16, 2020

Legacy of Care Continues -- Day 27


Gustave Caillebotte, Portrait de Jean Daurelle, en pied.
Donated to Musee d'Orsay, 2019

Gustave Caillebotte died of pulmonary congestion while working in his garden at Petit-Gennevilliers in 1894 at age 45. He is interred at Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

He had had no need for money or agents to promote his work and sold very few of his artworks during his lifetime.  His motives behind these few sales are unknown.  And the treasure trove of 68 masterpieces in the legacy he left to the French government did not include any by Caillebotte himself. Also, his remaining brother, Martial, retained the remaining artworks by Gustave in the family.  So, it is understandable that Caillebotte became far better known after his death for his collection of paintings by his Impressionist friends than for his own work which was largely forgotten..

Then somewhere around 1950 his descendents began to offer some of his works for sale, and the art world took particular notice in 1964 when the Art Institute of Chicage acquired Paris Street, Rainy Day.  Now the American art market woke up. By the 1970's  his work had been reassessed and exhibited for the first time in nearly 80 years.

Paris Street, Rainy Day, 1877, ca 6.9' x 9'

But even then, Gustave's descendents have been slow to let go of his art.  Perhaps like him they have little need for the proceeds plus time is certainly on their side as his reputation continues to grow.  Some relatives insist that the only reason the family let go of Paris Street, Rainly Day is that no one had the necessary wall space to display the enormous work.

To me there is a certain charm in hearing about what has become of Caillebotte's works over the years. There often seems to be a certain care about how his work is passed on; money doesn't seem to be the entire point. For instance, a major work (but not from his most marvelous, early period), Chemin Montant, fetched $22 million at auction at Christie's just over a year ago.  An enormous amount of money yes, but it was sold specifically 'to benefit a charitable foundation."

And, again very recently, five little-known works which belonged to Caillebotte's butler, Jean Daurelle, were put on view at the Musee d'Orsay.  They were a remarkable gift made by Daurelle's great granddaugher. The works had been passed down to her through her family and could have been sold for large sums. But she refused all offers by hopeful buyers and donated them to the Musee which was thrilled and touched.

This gesture was right up Gustave's donating alley, and some part of me likes to think he would have been pleased and proud.

Gustave Caillebotte, Chemin Montant, 1881, oil on canvas
Sold at auction to benefit a charitable foundation, 27 February 2019.  Fetched $22,000,000


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