Monday, June 4, 2007

Gustave Caillebotte: "On The Europe Bridge"

This is a very atmospheric piece, in both senses of the word. The cold palette duly depicts the foggy morning hours as the sun rises and spreads its light on the coats of the men standing on the bridge; shades of blue fill the air and render it as rather unwelcoming: an impression emphasized by the stolid backs of the by passers. Indeed, this painting evokes feelings of alienation and perhaps even imprisonment, as the bridge's metallic crisscrossing parts may imply. Even the sun's reflection is trapped. Caillebotte was fascinated with urbanization and this is a potent example of his special interest.

"On The Europe Bridge" incorporates both academic and impressionistic techniques, a trademark of the painters personal style. The profusely lit bridge and hats are nevertheless drawn with meticulous detail and, combined with careful application of color, provide sharp contrast to the slightly smeared background and the aerially dispersed sun's reflection - which echoes Monet's sun in the landmark "Sunrise: impression". Unlike in some other works by the artist, here the two styles amalgamate into a powerful and effective cohesion.

This could be the result of the rather limited palette: the painter must have felt somewhat constrained, which in turn led to economy in color and stylistic tricks - an admirable creative decision considering the crowded composition. I am of the opinion that Cailebottes mastery of impressionism had never gotten near that of the academic style of painting, and since the division here is roughly 70% of the latter and 30% of the former, the result is tasteful and reserved just so as to allow the subtleties to reveal themselves . This is my personal favorite painting of the artist.

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