Sunday, June 30, 2013


Above, The Orange Trees, by Gustave Caillebotte, (French, 1848-1894).  From 1878, oil on canvas, 61 x 46 inches.

The painting featured here is from the  "Arts of Europe" collection at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.  I had the opportunity to view this work up close and personal on a recent visit to the museum.

The theme of the painting is refined leisure and is beautifully articulated in Caillebotte's Impressionist piece.  The brilliance of the red, green, purple, and yellow hues shines through in flickering brush strokes.  It portrays Caillebotte's brother and their cousin elegantly attired and relaxing in a serene garden at the family villa just outside Paris.  All the fundamental aspects of modern style are embodied in the scene.  Sun drenched with nearly palpable summer heat, it was obviously painted outdoors, as was demanded by the canons of Impressionism.

Caillebotte used short, sketchy brush strokes to capture the essence of a fleeting moment...a moment before  luxuriant quiet and repose could be disturbed.  The Impressionist qualities of The Orange Trees do not fully account for it's striking nature.  Caillebotte was inspired by photography, Japanese prints, and the beauty of the boulevards and apartment buildings of modern Paris.  With these influences he successfully transported his vision onto a two-dimensional plane.

Many more beautiful works of European art on view now at MFAH.

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