France buys new masterpiece for Orsay museum with LVMH gift

France buys new masterpiece for Orsay museum with LVMH gift

Selena Mattei | Jan 31, 2023 2 minutes read 0 comments

France has added Gustave Caillebotte's "Boating Party," a stunning Impressionist masterpiece, to its national collection of art treasures. The luxury goods company LVMH gave France the 43 million euros (nearly $47 million) needed to buy the painting.

G. Caillebotte, boating party

The oil painting on canvas shows a man in a top hat rowing a small boat on calm water. The work was put on display at the Musée d'Orsay on Monday. It is amazing for how real it is, how soft the colors are, and how it looks like the artist was in the boat with the rower. It is the newest piece in the Impressionist art collection at the Paris museum, which is already very good. The painting was sold by Caillebotte’s descendants. Jean-Paul Claverie, an adviser to LVMH boss Bernard Arnault, said that it was one of the last Impressionist masterpieces still in private hands. "A work of art of this level and quality, a true masterpiece, is almost impossible to find from the Impressionist era," he said. "Of course, the biggest museums in the world wanted this painting," he said.

Rima Abdul Malak, who is in charge of culture for the government, said that keeping the painting in France was "a beautiful victory." Even though Caillebotte was a good painter in his own right, he was better known for supporting the French Impressionist artists who changed painting in the West in the late 1800s. Caillebotte came from a wealthy family, so he was able to buy dozens of paintings by Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, and other artists he knew and helped financially. Before he died, he gave their art to the French government with the hope that it would be shown at the Louvre.

Caillebotte (right) and boating friends (1877 or 1878)

After Caillebotte died at age 45 in February 1894, France took 38 of his paintings by Monet, Renoir, Édouard Manet, Paul Cézanne, and other artists for its national collection. The Impressionist collection at the Musée d'Orsay, which opened in 1986 in a former train station, was built around this gift. Caillebotte's reputation as an important collector and giver of Impressionist art has long overshadowed his own contributions as a painter to the movement. This is partly because he didn't include any of his own paintings in the collection he left to the French government. When Caillebotte died, he was single and didn't have any kids, so his brother Martial Caillebotte got 175 of his paintings. His descendants kept most of his work, and only a small amount of it went to French museums.

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