When I was in Paris recently (how I LOVE to say that phrase!), I had the pleasure of being one of the first people through the doors of the Caillebotte exhibition at the musée Jacquemart-André. The exhibition, which runs until July 11, celebrates the talents of two brothers, Gustave (1848-1894), an Impressionist painter, and Martial (1853-1910), a photographer. Their father left a large fortune to his sons upon his death in 1874. From that moment on, Gustave devoted himself to painting, while Martial dedicated himself to music. He composed several pieces for the piano (Airs de ballets, 1887) and some religious music, before discovering photography.
The two brothers remained very close and lived together until Martial’s marriage. Thereafter, they continued to vacation together and they kept the same circle of friends. Upon his brother’s death, Martial and their good friend Renoir, arranged for Gustave’s collection of paintings (his own and other Impressionists) to be given to France. The two brothers shared many interests – stamp collecting, gardening, and sailing – and these mutual passions inspired their painting and photography. They lived during a time of enormous change in Paris when Baron Haussmann cut great avenues and lined them with buildings that gave Paris that elegant gray and cream façade that sets it apart to this day. The brothers were fascinated by the modern bridges and buildings that were springing up around them, including the construction of the Eiffel Tower, and they recorded it all in their own ways.
This exhibit brings the work of the two brothers – one famous, one relatively obscure – into proximity and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Click here to see the official site of the exhibit. When you go, leave time for lunch in the gorgeous Jacquemart-André dining room and definitely select one of the delicious desserts from the cart of temptation near the entrance.
Today’s expression, cela tient de famille (sella tea-n duh fameee), is the equivalent of our expression “it runs in the family.” The artistic talent of these two brothers certainly seems to have done that.