Analysis of “Paris Street; Rainy Day”

“Paris Street; Rainy Day” (1877) is an oil painting by the French artist Gustave Caillebotte. Caillebotte was one of the leading figures of the French Impressionist movement, but he painted more realistically and searched for inspiration in urban life. In this masterpiece, he used bold perspective, bright colors, and small/visible brushstrokes to create a monumental portrait of a Paris intersection on a rainy day, capturing the modern everyday life of the 19th century.

The painting depicts people walking through the Place de Dublin. People are dressed in contemporary Parisian fashion such as hats, diamond earrings, demure dresses, and mustaches because Caillebotte was trying to take a snapshot of people’s typical day. He wanted the painting to look similar to a photo, which indicates his interest in photography. He also applied the effect of the camera lens (curvature of the lens) to make subjects bigger in the center. Furthermore, he created this painting reflecting the time period; thus, the work is largely influenced by the events in the 1870s, especially the flurry of activity over wars and new technology. These events affected his depiction of subjects.

Caillebotte grew up and lived in the relatively unsettled hill with narrow/crooked streets in Paris. His experience reflected his thoughts and emotions about Paris in the painting and added flavor to every brush stroke.

The layout/placing of the roads and buildings are unique. People in the painting are spaced out equally, and a vertical green lamp in the center divides the painting into 4 quarters. The spacing draws one object larger than another to show that it is closer to the viewer. Plus, the green lamp draws the viewers’ eyes to the center of the buildings in the background. The entire image is also linear. Caillebotte used a two-point perspective to increase the depth of the subject and make the painting look more realistic.

The monochromatic color palette is used to create the mood of the work and also to improve on perspective with the colors becoming blurrier in the background. The use of pale blues, greens, and yellows depicts the cold weather and the rainwhich conveys feelings of isolation and remorse.

The texture in this painting is detailed. The stylistic brushstrokes make the texture of the painting look photo-realistic. For example, the texture of the wet cobblestones is painted with small strokes with dark colors. It has smooth edges and becomes less clear/blurrier in the farther background.

Caillebotte, G. (n.d.). Paris street; rainy day. Retrieved May 03, 2021, from https://www.artic.edu/artworks/20684/paris-street-rainy-day

Paris street; rainy day. (2021, April 13). Retrieved May 07, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Street;_Rainy_Day

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