This extraordinary, previously unknown painting was recently rediscovered after being kept by the same family since it was given to Badufle by Caillebotte. Examples of the artist's best work not held in museum collections are limited; rarer still is the appearance of a previously unknown work such as Allée de la Villa des fleurs à Trouville.
“In his Normandy landscapes, Caillebotte was entering territory in which several of his predecessors —notably Eugène Boudin and Monet— had previously distinguished themselves, in Impressionism’s early years. These works inevitably bring to mind certain paintings by Monet, who sojourned frequently in Normandy beginning in 1881” (R. Rapetti in Gustave Caillebotte: The Unknown Impressionist (exhibition catalogue), Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1996, pp. 162-63). Caillebotte first visited Normandy in June 1880, and returned there every summer in the following years. A keen sailor as well as painter, he participated in the regattas along the Channel and painted coastal views and holiday villas at Villers-su-Mer, Trouville and Honfleur. Easily reached by train from Paris, by the second half of the nineteenth century Trouville had become a fashionable summer retreat for the French aristocracy. By choosing this location for his subject matter, Caillebotte has followed in the footsteps of Boudin, who painted here in the 1860s and 1870s, as well as Monet who was a regular visitor to the region. In his depictions of Normandy, however, Caillebotte turned away from the fashionably dressed visitors that dominated Boudin’s compositions and, like Monet, focused on the landscape.
In many of his Normandy canvases Caillebotte depicted elegant villas - perched dramatically on the rocks - used by summer visitors from Paris. The plunging perspective often used in those works is reminiscent of his earlier Parisian street scenes. In other compositions he focused on the sea and sailboats, or the steep cliffs which towered over the expanse of the sea. In the present work Caillebotte has depicted a tree-lined path leading from the villa where he probably lodged towards the sea front. Capturing the scene on a bright sunny day, he used short, quick brushstrokes to render its lush growth and to explore the play of light and shadow on the trees and shrubs as well as on the path. In both its subject matter and its treatment of light, Allée de la Villa des fleurs à Trouville is reminiscent of the artist’s earlier depictions of Parc Monceau in Paris, as well as of Renoir’s sunlit compositions celebrating the beauty of nature in all its sunlit glory.
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