Gustave Caillebotte created the Self Portrait as an expression of the deep impressionist style, which he not only adopted but also strongly sponsored.
The artwork is displayed at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, France and its dimensions are 40.5 x 32.5 cm.
Subject and Technique
Caillebotte's Self Portrait represents the painter's inner conflict. Although it appears to be an ordinary portrait of a gentleman, the contrasting grey background, composed of different nuances, is a mirror of the artist's dark reality. The grey tones are a mix of complementary colours in proof of Caillebotte's pure impressionism touch.
The artist appears to be calm, but the dynamics of his eyes entice the viewer. The gentleman is a thorough observer of his surroundings and examines each aspect of his present reality in detail. He has a critical reception of culture and exhibits a tension in his understanding of both society and his close friends.
His glance is sharp while his physical appearance is imposing and created with opaque colours. Caillebotte limits the use of transparent colours or thin paint to add weight to his masterpiece. By applying wet paint over another layer of wet paint, Caillebotte achieves a certain depth which is a unique echo of the artist's meditative state. Through the Self Portrait, the artist tries to pass through each sequence of layers in search of self-discovery. The painting suggests a snapshot of Caillebotte's creative expression.
Caillebotte applies colours with minimum mixing to create the play of light and emphasize the reflections. It's the effets de soir (shadowy effects) which give the sense of depth and intense contrast between the apparent serenity of the artist and the inner battle which he is struggling with throughout his entire life.
A Few Last Words
Caillebotte was a true impressionist who was inspired by the reality of the society in which he lived. He had a profound awareness and critical view on society's evolution which distinctly places him among the French avant-garde elite artists.