Marie Berhaut, Caillebotte, sa vie et son oeuvre: Catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1978, no. 290, illustrated p. 179
Isabelle Cahn, Cadres de peintres, Paris, 1989, illustrated in color pl. 7
“Loans” in The National Gallery Report, April 1991-March 1992, illustrated in color p. 29
Marie Berhaut, Gustave Caillebotte: Catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1994, no. 305, illustrated p. 187 & in color p. 15
Jean-Jacques Lévêque, Gustave Caillebotte, L’Oublié de l’Impressionnisme, 1848-1894, Paris, 1994, illustrated in color p. 40
Louisa Somerville, Animals in Art, London, 1996, illustrated in color p. 13
Karin Sagner, Gustave Caillebotte: Neue Perspektiven des Impressionismus, Munich, 2009, no. 46, illustrated in color p. 177
Marrinan Michael, Gustave Caillebotte, Los Angeles, 2016, illustrated fig. 181, n.p.
As Caillebotte’s final and most impressive portrait of his friend, Richard Gallo et son chien Dick, au Petit Gennevilliers reaches the pinnacle of expression and artistic freedom in portraiture. Removed from the interior settings of the artist’s earlier works, Gallo here is witnessed mid-stride along the iridescent Seine on a daytime stroll with his canine companion Dick. As in La Partie de bésigue, Gallo seems to be studiously at ease, standing with a focused gaze and smart suit even during times of ostensible relaxation. The upright posture of the man is echoed in the jaunty yet elegant gait of the well-groomed dog, who like his owner is rendered in rich blacks and purples. The dark color scheme of Gallo and his dog is not only befitting of a nattily dressed man of society, but also serves to draw the figures to the fore of the composition. Behind the pair a luminous and fecund riverbank sits peacefully, dotted with bright white buildings reminiscent of the grand Haussmannian edifices of Paris. Between banks the reflections of the buildings shimmer on the surface of the water, balancing the composition and capturing the same light which dapples the ground near Gallo and his dog. Steely gray skies set a neutral background for the effulgent scene below in a palette of light blues, dense greens and playful tones of whites and peach which characterize many of Caillebotte’s paintings of Yerres and Petit Gennevilliers. A looser, Impressionistic handling of the brush and wonderful impastoed daubs of paint enliven the canvas and conveys a sense of freedom of the outdoors in contrast to Caillebotte’s incisive and architectural cityscapes of the prior decade.
The trajectory of Caillebotte’s portraiture, as summarized by the suite of Gallo paintings, reveals an astute attention to environment and the psychological implications a subject’s setting holds for the viewer. As Karin Sagner states, “The self-questioning of the individual and his place in a bourgeoisie world were the themes that also dominated Caillebotte’s portraiture as it made a name for itself between 1878 and 1884. His sitters were mostly men, seated in an armchair, reclining on a sofa, or standing at a window: thinking, reading, daydreaming. In their totality, these portraits come across as a pictorial plumbing of the role of the man in society. Caillebotte… thus made a unique contribution to the body of Impressionist painting” (K. Sagner, Gustave Caillebotte, An Impressionist and Photography (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., pp. 27-28).
In the 1878 Portrait de Richard Gallo, a knowing young man gazes from a stiff-backed chair with an air of self-importance and dominance over his well-appointed Parisian apartment—one which includes a piano and stack of books as hallmarks of the bourgeoisie (see fig. 1). The following portrait of 1881 sees a dapper, cross-armed Gallo sitting upon a lavish sofa with a newspaper across his lap (see fig. 2). The newspaper bears the name of the rival conservative publication Le Figaro and hints at the competitive nature of enterprise in the modernizing city. After the singular focus of the initial portraits, Caillebotte’s renderings of Gallo begin to incorporate broader leisure scenes including multiple figures with more clearly recognizable backgrounds. Painted in the artist’s apartment on the fashionable Boulevard Haussmann, La Partie de bésigue features a close circle of Caillebotte’s friends and fellow bachelors, including his brother Martial playing cards at right and Gallo as the standing figure at center (see fig. 3).
Documenting more than the artist’s long-standing relationship with Gallo, Richard Gallo et son chien Dick, au Petit Gennevilliers also captures the revolutionary artistic spirit of the Impressionists. By the late 1860s, portraiture, like many academic genres, had been challenged by the rising avant-garde. The formal, studio-based compositions of wealthy patrons posed in their finery had been supplanted by the Impressionists’ more intimate and immediate scenes of their sitters, often glimpsed among friends or relatives and engaged in social and leisure pursuits. The Impressionist penchant for spontaneity and light-drenched landscapes carried across genres into a new and expanded notions of portraiture which considered the subject’s environs as integral to their character. As described in 1880 by Charles Ephrussi, a contemporary critic and friend of the Impressionists: “To compose one’s picture, not in a studio but on the spot, in the presence of the subject; to rid oneself of all convention; to put oneself in front of nature and interpret it frankly; brutally, without worrying about the official way of seeing… to proceed as though the figures were inseparable from the background, as though they resulted from it, and that, in order to appreciate a work, it were necessary to embrace it as a whole and look at it from the desired distance; such is the ideal of the new school” (quoted in Gustave Caillebotte: Urban Impressionist (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 182). During its first show in 1888 at the annual Belgian avant-garde exhibition of “Les XX”, the present work was titled Portrait de M.R.G., signifying Caillebotte’s clear intent for the lyrical riverscape to indeed be considered a portrait, albeit a reinvented one. A seamless blend of the traditional academic genre of landscape and portraiture, the present work embodies the Impressionist exaltation of light, leisure and the fleeting moment, while recalling the Parisian cityscapes of Caillebotte’s earlier career.
In 1881, Caillebotte and his brother Martial acquired an estate in Petit Gennevilliers, a charming village across the Seine from Argenteuil which would become the backdrop for many of the artists’ paintings and photographs from that time onward. Favored by the Impressionists for its picturesque views and proximity to Paris, the region near Petit Gennevilliers was also known as a fashionable boating and leisure destination for city-dwellers looking to escape the noise and grime of the capital, and was captured as such by artists as Monet, Seurat and Renoir during the 1870s-80s (see figs. 4 & 5).
Set along the river Seine, Renoir’s jovial masterwork Luncheon of the Boating Party articulates a similar essence of unhurried enjoyment as the present work and speaks directly to the circle of artists and intellectuals in Paris in the late nineteenth century (see fig. 6). A great friend of Renoir, Caillebotte is featured prominently at right, sitting backwards on his chair in a straw-brimmed hat as he laps up the conversation and company of his peers. The aforementioned critic and collector of the Impressionists Charles Ephrussi is found in the distance wearing a top hat and chatting with more casually dressed acquaintance.
Surrounded by a coterie of artistic peers, Caillebotte would settle permanently in Petit Gennevilliers, expanding the estate with his brother and painting the idyllic property until his untimely death in 1894. A photo taken by Martial just a few years before the painter’s passing documents the enduring friendship between the Caillebotte brothers and Gallo and, like the present work, captures a fleeting moment of reprieve from city life (see fig. 7). A triumph of modern portraiture and the quintessence of the Impressionist movement, Richard Gallo et son chien Dick, au Petit Gennevilliers stands not only as a testament to an abiding friendship, but presents to the market one of the most magnificent masterpieces of Caillebotte's immaculate oeuvre.
As a generous and well-liked figure within his social circle, Caillebotte was known to frequently gift paintings to his fellow painters and close friends. The present work, like the two earlier portraits now in the collections of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Fondation de l'Hermitage in Lausanne, were gifted to Gallo by Caillebotte after completion. Richard Gallo et son chien Dick, au Petit Gennevilliers remained in Gallo’s collection until his death, at which time his nephew Maurice Rolland inherited the work. This resplendent and touching portrayal was on extended loan to the National Gallery in London in the early 1990s, as well as on loan to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 2000-02, and has appeared in numerous international exhibitions since its creation.
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