By Richard R. Brettell
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Additional resources for French Impressionists
There are several reasons for his neglect; the most obvious has to do with Caillebotte's own wealth and social status. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he lived comfortably insulated from the rocky economic times of the Third French Republic (1871-1940). Perhaps, for that reason, he rarely sold his work and devoted himself, instead, to forming the single most important collection of Impressionist paintings by his colleagues. He gave these paintings to the French nation at his death, and they form the core of the world's greatest collection of Impressionism, now housed in Paris in the Musee d'Orsay.
Degas depicted Paris at night; Renoir painted the city by day. Degas was a highly educated bourgeois with a private income and Renoir, of humbler circumstances, worked anxiously for his living, attempting always to disguise working-class origins behind a seemingly effortless and confidently sensual art. Both Woman at the Piano and The Rowers' Lunch were among the fifteen paintings sent by Renoir to the second Impressionist exhibition, in 1876. Perhaps because it was so expressive and beautiful, Woman at the Piano had already been sold to a M.
In fact, is clearly going to quickly finish both her beer and her magazine. She is warmly dressed and gloved, suggesting that the temperature is cool and that the garden view behind her is a painted backdrop. Moreover, the shapes on the cover of her magazine almost seem to represent a figure walking on a windy day with a bird flying overhead. The cafe, like many in Paris, is probably insufficiently heated, and she has chosen to warm herself in the sun. In its style, The Reader is among Manet's most Impressionist paintings.