To help fund the purchase a rare piece by Impressionist Gustave Caillebotte, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is selling eight works. These paintings by Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Auguste Renoir and Vasily Vereshchagin are expected to fetch between $16.6 million and $24.3 million. It is not surprising that the MFA will need to sell art to raise the funds; its donors have recently and generous supported a fantastic new American Art wing and a Contemporary Art wing. The painting is well worth the sell-off (especially since the paintings in question have not been exhibited since 2003) and I look forward to its permanent place at the MFA.
The new acquisition is “Man at His Bath” which is notable because there are not many works Caillebotte available and is extraordinary because there are very few Impressionist male nudes. Gustave Caillebotte (1848 – 1894) was fortunate enough to be wealthy during Belle Epoch Paris which allowed him to buy works from his friends Monet, Renoir and others known today as the Impressionist. While his patronage may have had a longer lasting effect, Caillebotte himself was a very gifted artist. He and Édouard Manet are my favorite painters from the late 19th century Parisian art scene mainly because they focused on daily activities while often alluding to the darkness of modern urban life. While “Man at His Bath” is mundane but intimate, his most famous work “Paris Street; Rainy Day” at the Art Institute of Chicago depicts isolated figural groupings moving through dreary streets. Both paintings are expertly composed with a balance of light and dark and interesting lines. Caillebotte’s unique nude “Man at His Bath” is an excellent addition at the MFA – definitely worth a landscape or two.