Gustave Caillebotte was a French painter, member and patron of the group of artists known as Impressionists, though he painted in a much more realistic manner than many other artists in the group. Caillebotte was noted for his early interest in photography as an art form.
Gustave Caillebotte was born on 19 August 1848 to an upper-class Parisian family living in the rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis. His father, Martial Caillebotte (1799–1874), was the inheritor of the family's military textile business and was also a judge at the Seine department's Tribunal de Commerce. Caillebotte's father was twice widowed before marrying Caillebotte's mother, Céleste Daufresne (1819–1878), who had two more sons after Gustave, René (1851–1876) and Martial (1853–1910). Caillebotte was born at home on rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis in Paris, and lived there until 1866 when his father had a home built on rue de Miromesnil. Beginning in 1860, the Caillebotte family began spending many of their summers in Yerres, a town on the Yerres River about 12 miles (20 km) south of Paris, where Martial Caillebotte, Sr. had purchased a large property. It was around this time that Caillebotte probably began to draw and paint.
Caillebotte earned a law
degree in 1868 and a licence to practise law in 1870. He was also an engineer. Shortly afterwards, he was drafted to fight in the Franco-Prussian
war, and served from July 1870 to March 1871 in the Garde Nationale Mobile de la Seine.
Caillebotte's sizable allowance, along with the inheritance he received after the death of his father in 1874 and his mother in 1878, allowed him to paint without the pressure to sell his work. It also allowed him to help fund Impressionist exhibitions and support his fellow artists and friends (including Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, and Camille Pissarro among others) by purchasing their works and, at least in the case of Monet, paying the rent for their studios.
Caillebotte bought his first Monet in 1875 and was especially helpful to that artist's career and financial survival. He was precise in his sponsorship; notably absent are works by Georges Seurat and Paul Gauguin, or any of the Symbolists. In 1890 he played a major role in assisting Claude Monet in organizing a public subscription and in persuading the French state to purchase Édouard
Manet's 1863 Olympia.
Convinced after the death of his younger brother René in 1876 that his own life would be short, Caillebotte wrote his will
while still in his twenties. In his will, Caillebotte donated a large collection to the French government. This collection ultimately included sixty-eight paintings by various artists: Camille Pissarro (19), Claude Monet (14), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (10), Alfred Sisley (9), Edgar
Degas (7), Paul Cézanne (5), and Édouard