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“The Orange Trees” by Gustave Caillebotte

"The Orange Trees" by Gustave Caillebotte

“The Orange Trees” by Gustave Caillebotte

“The Orange Trees” by Gustave Caillebotte portrays Caillebotte’s brother Martial reading in the shade of the orange trees. Their cousin, Zoé, is standing at one of the garden planters, which contain the trees. The poses of both suggest that they are each enjoying the afternoon quietly with their private thoughts. The sunlight illuminates a circular flower bed surrounded by a curving path, at the edge of which is a sleeping dog.

Caillebotte has composed a sharp contrast between the shady foreground in the lower part of the image and the bright background. The shadows are painted in muted greens and purples, while the lawn and flower beds are brilliant greens, reds, and whites. Caillebotte painted this canvas en Plein air at the family’s country estate in Yerres. Impressionist painters were known for painting outdoors; however, large canvases such as this, painted outdoors, were uncommon due to the difficulties in creating such a large work quickly, before the light changed.

Caillebotte was a friend of many of the impressionist painters, and this painting is part of that tradition; however, it differs in its realism and reliance on-line and not broad brush strokes. It also reflects Caillebotte’s interest in photography. The figure of Zoé in the background appears out of focus, while the chairs in the foreground are in sharper focus. The cropping of the orange tree, further suggests the influence of photography.

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.

Explore Gustave Caillebotte

  • Gustave Caillebotte was born in 1848 into a wealthy family who built their fortune in textiles and real estate.
  • Caillebotte was independently wealthy. In 1873, he inherited the great fortune of his father.
  • He was known as a supporter of the arts for contributing funds to Impressionist exhibitions
  • He purchasing works by fellow artists such as Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, and Camille Pissarro.
  • This collection ultimately included sixty-eight paintings by various artists: Camille Pissarro (nineteen), Claude Monet (fourteen), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (ten), Alfred Sisley (nine), Edgar Degas (seven), Paul Cézanne (five), and Édouard Manet (four).
  • Caillebotte was noted for his early interest in photography as an art form
  • Caillebotte used his wealth to fund a variety of hobbies in which he was passionate, including stamp collecting, orchid growing, yacht building, and textile design.
  • The Musée d’Orsay holds forty of Caillebotte’s works.
  • Caillebotte is best known for his paintings of urban Paris.

The Orange Trees

  • Title:            The Orange Trees
  • French:        Les Orangers
  • Artist:          Gustave Caillebotte
  • Year:            1878
  • Medium:      Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: Height: 1,549.4 mm (61 in). Width: 1,168.4 mm (46 in).
  • Museum:      Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gustave Caillebotte


  • Can you see the influence of photography in this painting?

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


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