Contrary to Caillebotte’s Pont de l’Europe, the scene which Caillebotte uses in Rue de Paris;temps de pluie (1877 Art Institute of Chicago) presents a winter scene staged on the rue de Saint-Petersbourg in front of Manet’s studio and near the intersection of rue de Moscou. A little further down the street, number 44, between rue de Florence and Place de Clichy was Manet’s family apartment. Caillebotte started the overall composition in a large sketch in oil paint and made several studies, including the detail of a block of cobblestone, and many drawings of his characters. The sketch is more impressionistic than a definitive painting, thanks to its brighter atmosphere, the vivid colors, and most importantly, its vaporous silhouettes.
Caillebotte exhibited Rue de Paris; temps de pluie in l’Exposition Impressionniste de 1877 next to Monet’s Gare Saint-Lazare and Renoir’s Bal au Moulin de la Gallette (Musée d’Orsay, Paris). On the sidewalk of rue de Turin, number 15, beside the cafe that is still on the corner of rue de Moscow, is the exact point where Caillebotte captured these fleeting perspectives of Rue de Paris;temps de pluie. I have visited this very sight many times and have included the present day view.
As you can see, the buildings have changed very little over the past 137 years and this scene still reflects the characteristics of the Second Empire; the main changes have been in the streets and signage. The pharmacy that you see in the background (the blue cross) is still in business today. Teeming with life, the great crossroads portrayed by Caillebotte evoke the comings and goings of anonymous flaneurs of the great metropolis, but also the unusual inhabitants of a neighborhood that housed artists such as Manet and Monet, who was working just a few steps away on the rue Moncey and in 1878 took up residence at the street of Edinburgh, near the rue de Rome. Caillebotte also created a strong impression of authenticity by accentuating the anonymous silhouettes under their umbrellas, crossing the wet cobblestone pavement. The gaslight which Caillebotte planted in the center of the composition, upset many critics as these were not installed until after 1878.
The place de l’Europe is populated by characters straight out of a fashion magazine. Notice Caillebotte’s detail of a thin veil covering the woman’s face, the velvet tophats, and the pantcoats worn by the bourgeoisie. He also demonstrates a mixing of the classes as detailed in the background by the maids and working class.
In Rue de Paris;temps de pluie, Caillebotte captured a beautiful, modern scene of Paris in 1878 in the neighborhood of many artists, writers and bourgeois of nineteenth century. This represents one of my favorite Impressionist paintings as well as a favorite Parisian neighborhood to visit! I am grateful to the Art Institute of Chicago and Art Historian and Curator Richard Bretell for introducing me to this masterpiece!
Copyright 2015 by Robyn Lowrie. May be quoted in part or full only with attribution to Robyn Lowrie (www.frenchquest.com)