Gustave Caillebotte, The Floor Scrapers, 1875, Oil on canvas, 102 x 147 cm, Musée d'Orsay, Paris.
Gustave Caillebotte, 1848-1894, was a French painter, art collector, and impresario who combined aspects of the academic and Impressionist styles in a unique synthesis. Caillebotte studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He met Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet in 1874 and showed his works at the Impressionist exhibition of 1876 and its successors. Caillebotte became the chief organizer, promoter, and financial backer of the Impressionist exhibitions for the next six years, and he used his wealth to purchase works by other Impressionists, notably Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Cézanne, Degas, Sisley, and Berthe Morisot. Caillebotte used bold perspectives to create a monumental portrait of Paris. He also painted portraits and figure studies, boating scenes and rural landscapes, and decorative studies of flowers. He tended to use brighter colours and heavier brushwork in his later works. The Floor Scrapers is an early depiction of the urban working class at work. It depicts three floor-planers working on hands and knees, scraping a parquet floor in a Parisian apartment. The painting is special because nearly all pictures of men and women at work were country scenes of farm workers and peasants. Unlike Courbet or Millet, Caillebotte adopts a wholly neutral approach and avoids the temptation to include any social or political message in the painting. Caillebotte originally submitted the work with its unique perspective and high angle to the official exhibition of the French Academy in 1875 but the jury of the exhibition, the Salon, refused the painting, deeming it "vulgar” and "unheroic." Even the well-known, avant-garde writer and critic, Émile Zola, who had defended the Impressionists, wasn’t impressed. The Floor Scrapers, which is now regarded as one of Caillebotte's best works, was admired by the Impressionist painters however who persuaded him to display the piece in their second exhibition in 1876.
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