Gustave Caillebotte’s Interiors: Working Between Leisure and Labor

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Born into immense wealth, Gustave Caillebotte nevertheless “compelled himself to labor at painting” (Gustave Geffroy, 1894). In so doing he routinely represented the labor of others, both on the job and “working at leisure” (Gloria Groom, 1995). The contradictions of this liminal position—with Caillebotte seen as caught precariously between the haut bourgeois identity of his family and the working identity of his chosen vocation—has long fascinated scholars, and Caillebotte’s class-bound alienation is thus stated routinely.

Drawing precision from Hannah Arendt’s seminal distinction between work and labor, and contextualizing Caillebotte’s painterly practice alongside his other activities, most specifically yachting and philately (understood as forms of “work” in Arendt’s sense), the article argues that it was in cross-pollinating work practices on the canvas surface that Caillebotte was able to imagine and image a de-alienated social self. What will emerge through this reading is a new understanding of the importance of work for Caillebotte, and a new sense of the centrality of Caillebotte’s routinely elided non-painterly activities to his sense of self, his idea of work, and his painterly project.
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StatwsCyhoeddwyd - 11 Tach 2018

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