“Young Man at His Window,” regarded as the most important painting by French impressionist Gustave Caillebotte, will go on view at the Getty Center Museum in 2022.
The J. Paul Getty Museum acquired the large-scale figure painting at an auction in New York City Thursday. The purchase price was not disclosed for the work widely considered a masterpiece of modern realism and a key moment in the history of impressionism,
“We expect Caillebotte’s ‘Young Man at His Window’ to become a new standout in our popular impressionist gallery,” museum director Timothy Potts said. “This extraordinary painting exemplifies Caillebotte’s carefully constructed and sharp-edged brand of urban realism — so distinct from the informal landscape aesthetic of artists like Monet and Renoir — and will allow us to present to our public a fuller picture of the art associated with the impressionist movement.”
The painting depicts a young man in a dark suit, modeled by the artist’s brother Rene, standing at a large open window in the Caillebotte family’s well-appointed upper-story apartment in Paris.
With his back to the viewer, his feet planted firmly apart and hands in his pockets, he looks out at a sun-drenched street scene tightly framed by tall apartment blocks.
A cushiony red satin armchair in the right foreground suggests he has been sitting at this window for some time, and that he has been suddenly roused.
His attention seems fixed on a lone woman crossing the street below, who, despite her small scale, is so insistently framed by the painting’s plunging perspective that viewers have been riveted ever since.
Caillebotte exhibited “Young Man at His Window” to acclaim at the second impressionist exhibition in 1876, when he was 27 years old. It was his public debut as a painter.
“Young Man at His Window” is the culminating work in an early trio of domestic interior scenes featuring Caillebotte’s immediate family, all painted in 1876. The other two are “Young Man Playing the Piano,” depicting his brother Martial, and “Luncheon,” depicting Rene, their widowed mother and a servant.
“With dramatic lighting, painstaking execution, and a highly original composition that brilliantly conjoins domestic interior and Paris street scene, `Young Man at His Window’ is an acknowledged masterpiece from the most inventive period of Caillebotte’s career,” said Scott Allan, the Getty Museum’s curator of paintings.
“Caillebotte’s painting represented the most innovative form of modern urban realism in the mid-1870s. Such realism was a key ingredient of the broader impressionist project, particularly among the most ambitious figure painters of the independent exhibition group, and it anticipated by many decades, as scholars have recognized, important developments in photography and cinema.
“`Young Man at His Window’ remains a bracingly modern work, one whose visual acuity is matched by its psychological tension and ambiguity,” Allan said.