Lot 389
  • 389

Gustave Caillebotte

200,000 - 300,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Gustave Caillebotte
  • Portrait d'homme
  • Signed G. Caillebotte and dated 1881 (upper right)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 18 by 15 in.
  • 45.7 by 38.1 cm


Estate of the artist, France
Private Collection, France (acquired from the above)
Sale: Palais Galliéra, Paris, March 29, 1971, lot 11
Sale: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, November 21, 1980, lot 21
Acquired at the above sale


Huntington, New York, The Heckscher Museum, 1991-94 (on loan)


Marie Berhaut, Gustave Caillebotte, sa vie et son oeuvre. Catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1978, no. 166, illustrated p. 138 
Marie Berhaut, Gustave Caillebotte, Catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1994, no. 184, illustrated p. 145 

Catalogue Note

In his seminal 1876 text on the Impressionists, French novelist and art critic Edmond Duranty wrote: “What we need is the unconventional representation of the modern individual in his clothing and his social customs at home or in the street” (Edmond Duranty, "La Nouvelle peinture, à propos du groupe d’artistes qui expose dans les galleries Durand-Ruel” in Gustave Caillebotte, An Impressionist and Photography (exhibition catalogue), Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, 2012-13, p. 21). The small series of male portraits that Caillebotte painted between 1877 and 1885 which includes Portrait de Édouard Dessommes might be seen as a direct response to this demand. Discussing this group of paintings, Karin Sagner acknowledges them as among the artist’s most important works: “His sitters were mostly men…thinking, reading, daydreaming. In their totality, these portraits come across as a pictorial plumbing of the role of man in society. Caillebotte, for whom the isolated female portrait played a comparatively peripheral role, thus made a unique contribution to the body of Impressionist painting” (ibid., pp. 27-28). These canvases, which are mostly portraits of fellow artists, friends or acquaintances, are strikingly modern in approach. Whereas portraiture of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century had often been a means of flattering the sitter and conveying social status, the latter half of this century saw a shift that placed greater emphasis on psychological insight and broader social commentary. While his portraits conform to this, they also reveal the distinctive perception of the world that distinguished Caillebotte from his contemporaries. In paintings from this period the artist often shows his subjects recumbent and apparently unoccupied, capturing a sense of the ennui that was then fashionable among the bourgeois classes.

The present work has traditionally been thought of as a portrait of Édouard Dessommes, who was a contemporary artist and writer. He had a studio on rue de Clichy in Paris, from which Caillebotte painted one of his views of rooftops; other portraits of Dessommes by Caillebotte are included in La Partie de bésigue of 1881 depicting a group of card players (see fig. 1), Dessommes visible at far left, in Caillbotte’s apartment on Boulevard Haussman, and Peintre sous son parasol of 1878 (see fig. 2).

Born in New Orleans in 1845, Dessommes was the French-speaking son of a wealthy Creole family. He was sent at the age of 14 to Paris to study medicine and art at the College Sainte-Barbe, and it was during this time that he probably met Caillebotte. By the time he had finished medical school he was so artistically inspired that he abandoned the idea of becoming a doctor altogether, choosing instead to paint landscapes. He also tried his hand at writing and in 1859 published a novel, Femme et statue, whose subject was the famed Venus de Milo. His output was often compared to that of Guy de Maupassant, though his ultimate lack of immediate critical and financial success in Paris led him to return to New Orleans around 1887. From 1891 to 1894 he taught in the High School of Tulane University and ultimately retired to Mandeville, Louisiana, where he built a small cottage and cultivated an extraordinary flower garden filled with hundreds of rosebushes. He lived a romantic yet very solitary existence until his death there in 1908. 

The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by the Comité Caillebotte.