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Gustave Caillebotte: The Collector


As late as 1893, when what is today known as "The Caillebotte Collection" was willed to the Louvre, Gerome, then seventy, described the pictures as "filth" that only " a great moral slackening" could make acceptable to the government.

This was the Calliebotte collection. Gustave Callibotte was a navel architect of considerable wealth, a quiet man who discovered the impressionists before they became popular on the market and bought their pictures not as investments but because he liked them. (Many canny Americans bought impressionists early because Durand-Ruel, having been right about the Barbizon painters before their prices went up, might be right again) Caillebotte was a painter himself, made friends with the impressionists, exhibited in the second group show and four successive ones, threw his fine house on the river open to the young painters, and continued to buy their pictures during their most desperate times, although he remained an amateur, not interested in the money his paintings might bring.

He made a point of buying the kinds of pictures not saleable on the regular market - the very large ones and the ones painted to solve special problems. He did this to help the painters, but as a result he also acquired some of their most important work. The Caillebotte paintings that were finally accepted (the rejected ones include some fine Cezannes) are at the heart of the Louvre's impressionist collection.

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