Gustave Caillebotte (1848 –1894): The Floor Planers, 1875

5/13/2021, 4:36:40 PM
Gustave Caillebotte (1848 –1894): The Floor Planers, 1875, Oil on canvas, 102 × 146.5 cm, Musee d'Orsay, Paris Caillebotte’s present canvas, depicting shirtless laborers finishing a wood floor, became one of the sensations of the second impressionist show in 1876. Courbet originally had submitted this painting to the official exhibition of the French Academy in 1875 but the jury of the exhibition, the Salon, had refused the painting, deeming it "vulgar." Those representatives of the artistic establishment considered the subject, common workers refinishing a wood floor, "unheroic" and the strange, tilted view was thought to be too radical. Even the well-known, avant-garde writer and critic, Émile Zola, who had defended the Impressionists, denounced this work as being "anti-artistic" and "photographic." He went on to state that the work was "so accurate that made it bourgeois." However, The Floor Scrapers, which is regarded as one of Caillebotte's best works, did capture the attention and admiration of some of the Impressionist painters who persuaded him to display the piece in their second exhibition in 1876. After Caillebotte's death, this painting was bequeathed to the French state but it was only through the insistence of Renoir and Martial Caillebotte that it was eventually hung in the Musée du Luxembourg in 1896. The work illustrates Caillebotte's continued interest in perspective and everyday life. In the scene, the observer stands above three workers on hands and knees, scraping a wooden floor in a bourgeois apartment—now believed to be Caillebotte's own studio at 77, rue de Miromesnil, in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. A window on the back wall admits natural light. The workers are all shown with nude torsos and tilted heads, suggesting a conversation.

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