The Comité Gustave Caillebotte have confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Painted circa 1877, the same year as the artist's monumental masterpiece at the Chicago Art Institute, Paris Street, Rainy Afternoon, Portrait de jeune femme dans un intérieur shows Caillebotte as a radically modern artist at the cutting edge of the Impressionist movement. The 'modern' portrait was no longer about showing well-known men and beautiful women, but about the depiction of a social type 'In his or her clothing, in social situations at home or in the street.' The portrait had become intimate rather than formal. Here Caillebotte depicts his companion, Charlotte Hagen, in this family's apartment on the Rue de Miromesnil, the scene of his famous painting les raboleurs and many more of his great works.
Seated in a formal bourgeois interior, with its solid rectangular gilded boiserie (the motif is slightly different to the one present in his later residence Boulevard Hausmann, which permits us to differentiate the two locations), the subject is both natural and relaxed, gazing distantly at the room as if listening on a conversation between well-known friends. Wearing a conventional yet fashionable day coat, she is defined by her character and posture rather than by accoutrements such as a purse or jewellery. A woman relaxing in a sofa or easy chair was a favourite theme of the Impressionists in the 1870s. Interestingly, the presence of the sitter and her gaze are reminiscent of Edouard Manet's female figures of the 1870s and in particular the seated élégante in Argenteuil (1874,Musée de Tournai). As with Manet's sitters, Caillebotte has dispensed with any suggestions of invitation or seduction. The radical departure from the traditional idealisation of feminine mystique is accentuated by the vertical composition banded at the top by a cantilevered picture frame (a reference to the artist's active collecting of his fellow Impressionists' work) that compresses the sitter into a tightly constructed space. A few years earlier, Manet had created exactly the same lack of perspective through the thick black iron bars of the Saint Lazare fence, and the verticals and diagonals of the boat's masts in Argenteuil. In later female portraits, Caillebotte continued to use contrived interior spaces such as Intérieur, femme lisant, 1880 (Berhaut 139), perhaps hinting at the oppressing domesticity endured by bourgeois women of the time, especially compared to their male counterparts who had freer access to the capital's new social activities.
The particular gaze of the sitter and the gesture of her hands, at once open and concealed, also suggest a specific personality and relationship to the artist. Caillebotte's affair with Charlotte Hagen was well-kept family secret. Mademoiselle Hagen lived with Caillebotte only following the death of his parents as this was obviously as socially unacceptable cohabitation in the bourgeois milieu of the time. Caillebotte painted his mistress on several occasions including a daring almost life-size, Nu au divan, where she hides behind her arm in an attempt not to be recognized (Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Berhaut 201). Charlotte Hagen's most famous painterly representation remains certainly her presence in Le pont de l'Europe (Berhaut 49). Presented as an élégante walking across the bridge towards the viewer, she has just been overtaken by a dandy, Gustave Caillebotte himself, who cannot help turning his head to catch another glimpse of her beauty. Is she walking on her own because Caillebotte wants the central male figure to be perceived as the ultimate modern flâneur, who by definition can walk on his own, or he is making a subtle reference to the secrecy of their relationship?
According to Berhaut Portrait de jeune femme dans un intériur was amongst 8 portraits Caillebotte selected for the seminal 4th Impressionist exhibition in 1879, the painting was discreetly exhibited with the title of Portrait de Mme H. Organised by Caillebotte, the exhibition represented an important turning point for the Impressionists, it was to be the last one to include works by Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro. The modern female figure was to be celebrated, with the notable presence of Mary Cassatt's Femme dans une loge (Philadelphia Museum of Art), and Edgar Degas' famous Miss Lola, au cirque Fernando (The National Gallery, London).
Portrait de jeune femme dans un intérieur (Portrait de Mme H)
Oil on canvas
THE PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR
Signed and dated 'G Caillebotte' (lower left)
Paris, 4eme Exposition Impressionniste, Paris, 1879, no. 22 (titled Portrait de Mme H.).
Paris, Salon d'automne, Rétrospective Gustave Caillebotte, 1921, no. 2725 (titled Portrait de femme).
New York, Wildenstein & Co., A loan exhibition of paintings by Gustave Caillebotte, September - October 1968, no. 10 (titled Portrait de femme; lent by Mr & Mrs Georges Selz).
31 7/8 x 25 5/8 in. (81 x 65 cm.)
M.Berhaut, Gustave Caillebotte, sa vie et son oeuvre. Catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, 1978, no. 55 (illustrated p. 100; as dated 1877).
M. Berhaut, Gustave Caillebotte, Catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels, Paris, 1994, no. 59 (illustrated p. 94; as dated 1877).
M. Donmayson, Paris.
Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, by whom acquired from the above on 5 March 1894 (no. 2960).
Georges Selz, Paris; by whom acquired by circa 1957; sale, Sotheby's, London, 1 December 1971, lot 30 (illustrated).
J. Hirst, by whom acquired from the above sale.
Private collection, Paris, 1972.