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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Gustave Caillebotte – Boating

"Skiffs on the Yerres" by Gustave Caillebotte

“Skiffs on the Yerres” by Gustave Caillebotte

Gustave Caillebotte (1848 – 1894) was a French painter and patron of the Impressionists artists. Caillebotte was born to a wealthy upper-class Parisian family. Caillebotte’s sizable allowance which 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 Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, and Camille Pissarro, among others, by purchasing their works and paying the rent for their studios.

Gustave Caillebotte created a series of seven boating scenes painted in 1877 and 1878 at Caillebotte’s family estate along the Yerres River. These paintings show how Caillebotte experimented with perspective and composition under the influence of the emerging art of photography.

A Tour of Gustave Caillebotte’s Boating Paintings

“Skiffs on the Yerres” by Gustave Caillebotte

“Skiffs on the Yerres” by Gustave Caillebotte depicts three one-person skiffs being paddled along a river with its banks densely wooded. The skiff in the foreground dominates the painting. It is an open canoe designed to accommodate a single occupant. All the rowers appear to be wearing a straw-colored cloche hat. The dominant figure has a small red ribbon around his hat, a white smock top, and light blue trousers. His legs extend in front of him to brace against a cross-bar. Behind him, a backrest extends the lengths of his back.

The rowers are using a double-ended paddle with a heart-shaped blade at each end.  The bows of the boat produce patterned ripples in the water, in which the bright color of the paddle and man’s bright colors are seen in the reflection.

Skiffs on the Yerres

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“Boating on the Yerres” by Gustave Caillebotte

Gustave Caillebotte Boating on the Yerres

“Boating on the Yerres” by Gustave Caillebotte

“Boating on the Yerres” by Gustave Caillebotte is one of a series of seven boating scenes painted in 1877 and 1878 at Caillebotte’s family estate along the Yerres River. This painting is one of the earliest and depicts three one-main boats gliding through the waters of the Yerres River. The canvas is dominated by the river, which is painted in a pattern of horizontal brushstrokes. The trees and their reflections provide the horizontal aspects of the composition to create a composition of horizontals, verticals, and diagonals.

Boating on the Yerres

  • Title:                  Boating on the Yerres
  • Artist:                Gustave Caillebotte
  • Year:                 1877
  • Medium:           Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:     103.51 cm × 155.89 cm (40.75 in × 61.37 in)
  • Movement:       Impressionism
  • Museum:          Milwaukee Art Museum and Kimbell Art Museum

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“Boater Pulling on His Perissoire” by Gustave Caillebotte

Gustave Caillebotte Boater Pulling on His Perissoire

“Boater Pulling on His Perissoire” by Gustave Caillebotte

“Boater Pulling on His Perissoire” by Gustave Caillebotte depicts a single rower retrieving his one-main skiff, which is called Perissoire in French. A single-seater perissoire is a canoe approximately 3.5 meters to 4 meters long. Its construction is simple, with two boards for the sides and one for the bottom of the boat. It is generally a narrow and unstable boat, therefore dangerous, hence its name.

It is maneuvered with a double paddle. The origins of the perissoire are very old, coming from the evolution of the dugout canoe. It is found in the south of the United States as part of the French legacy in Louisiana

 Boater Pulling on His Perissoire

  • Title:                  Boater Pulling on His Perissoire
  • Artist:                Gustave Caillebotte
  • Year:                 1878
  • Medium:           Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:     Height: 73 cm (28.7″); Width: 91 cm (35.8″)
  • Movement:       Impressionism
  • Museum:          Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

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Les Périssoires by Gustave Caillebotte

"Les Périssoires" by Gustave Caillebotte

“Les Périssoires” by Gustave Caillebotte

Les Périssoires by Gustave Caillebotte, depicts the pleasures of summer during the artist’s summer holidays on his family’s property on the banks of the Yerres. The movement of the paddles rebalancing from one rower to another as the water split by the bow of the skiffs. Caillebotte was influenced by photographic art practiced by his brother, Martial. The framing of the scene is cropped as Caillebotte experimented with the conventions of painting.  Gustave Caillebotte’s perspective was a precursor that makes him influential in the history of modern art.

Les Périssoires

  • Title:                   Les Périssoires
  • Artist:                Gustave Caillebotte
  • Year:                 1878
  • Medium:           Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:     Height: 155 cm ; Width: 108 cm
  • Movement:       Impressionism
  • Museum:           Museum of Fine Arts of Rennes

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“Canoe on the Yerres River” by Gustave Caillebotte

"Canoe on the Yerres River" by Gustave Caillebotte

“Canoe on the Yerres River” by Gustave Caillebotte

“Canoe on the Yerres River” by Gustave Caillebotte depicts a one-person skiff being paddled along the Yerres River. In 1860 the father of Gustave Caillebotte bought an estate on the banks of the river Yerres, and Gustave Caillebotte painted around 80 paintings there until the sale of the estate in 1879. The town now owns the estate and its magnificent garden and is now open to visitors.

Yerres is a southeastern suburb of Paris, France. It is located 18.3 km (11.4 mi) from the center of Paris. The town of  Yerres extends on both sides of the valley through which flows the river Yerres.

Canoe on the Yerres River

  • Title:                  Canoe on the Yerres River
  • Artist:                Gustave Caillebotte
  • Year:                 1878
  • Medium:           Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:      Height: 65.7 cm (25.8″); Width: 81 cm (31.8″)
  • Movement:       Impressionism
  • Museum:          Norton Simon Museum

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“Oarsmen Rowing on the Yerres” by Gustave Caillebotte

"Oarsmen Rowing on the Yerres" by Gustave Caillebotte

“Oarsmen Rowing on the Yerres” by Gustave Caillebotte

“Oarsmen Rowing on the Yerres” by Gustave Caillebotte depicts a two-person skiff being rowed on the Yerres River. Caillebotte has copped the composition to resemble a photograph focused on the Oarsmen’s effort. The identity of the Oarsmen is concealed by the straw-colored cloche hats, that together with the oars, dominate the composition.

Oarsmen Rowing on the Yerres

  • Title:                  Oarsmen Rowing on the Yerres
  • Artist:                Gustave Caillebotte
  • Year:                 1877
  • Medium:           Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:      Height: 81 cm (31.89 in.), Width: 116 cm (45.67 in.)
  • Movement:       Impressionism
  • Museum:          Private Collection

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“Boaters on the Yerres” by Gustave Caillebotte

"Boaters on the Yerres" by Gustave Caillebotte

“Boaters on the Yerres” by Gustave Caillebotte

“Boaters on the Yerres” by Gustave Caillebotte depicts a multi-person skiff being rowed on the Yerres River. The passenger in blue is not participating in the rowing, so there must be a second-rower outside the frame to balance out the rowing.

Gustave Caillebotte was a patron of the Impressionists, although, as in this painting, he painted more realistically than many other Impressionists. Caillebotte was noted for his early interest in photography as an art form, and this influence is evident in this composition.

Boaters on the Yerres

  • Title:                   Boaters on the Yerres
  • Artist:                 Gustave Caillebotte
  • Year:                  1877
  • Medium:            Drawing – pastel
  • Dimensions:      Height: 52 cm (20.47 in.), Width: 86 cm (33.86 in.)
  • Movement:        Impressionism
  • Museum:           Private Collection

Gustave Caillebotte

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“The very great artists attach you even more to life.”
– Gustave Caillebotte

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Photo Credit: 1)Gustave Caillebotte [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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