(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)
I’m quite surprised that Gustave Caillebotte (1848 – 1894) was a member of the French Impressionists as his paintings are much more realistic than the others’ paintings. He painted more modern subjects and his paintings are almost photographic in style.
His painting of a Young Man at Window shows Caillebotte’s brother standing at the window of a new apartment looking out on the scene below. I love the clarity and crispness of this painting, the detail of the stone balustrade, the back view of the young man – a ‘flaneur’ or man about town – and the contrast between the dark interior and bright view outside the window. In the 1870s Paris was being transformed into a modern metropolis under Napoleon III, with Baron Haussmann’s new boulevards and apartements and the rise of the bourgeoisie. The urban setting of this painting shows the tree-lined boulevard and horse drawn carriages.
Is the young man looking at the woman outside? Does he know her? What is the story behind the painting?