Sunday, June 3, 2007

Gustave Flaubert Caught on Canvas?

The face of the man in Gustave Caillebotte's "Paris Street" immediately struck me as familiar. I recalled the photograph in my copy of Madam Bovary, found it on the web, and here it is, for you consideration. I find the resemblance overwhelming, although it might be just the domineering mustache that is so similar.

However, besides such random trivia, two things make this piece particularly notable. First, it is the engrossing perspective that almost literally sucks the viewer into the illusion, perhaps even a dramatic perspective. I think that in perhaps an anachronistic fashion, this view is very cinematic, something I have noticed in other Caillebotte's works as well.

And second, it is the blazing, blinding white light that is caught by the umbrellas and the sidewalk. The two main figures are executed with precision reminiscent of academic standards, yet their umbrellas, although drawn with similar accuracy, exude a purely impressionistic color. This combination is no less then shocking. From :

...Impresario who combined aspects of the academic and Impressionist styles in a unique synthesis...Caillebotte's originality lay in his attempt to combine the careful drawing and modeling and exact tonal values advocated by the academy with the vivid colours, bold perspectives, keen sense of natural light, and unpretentious subject matter of the Impressionists.

This synthesis is especially evident when comparing the foreground with the background: the former always tends towards the academic (possibly to make the close-up as sharp and focused as possible) while the latter towards the impressionistic. This tendency also shows in
Caillebotte's other works.

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