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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Visit Maison Caillebotte – An Impressionist Day Trip From Paris


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Discover a Hidden Gem of Impressionism: Visit the Maison Caillebotte

If you’re looking for an art-themed excursion from Paris complete with gardens, romantic parkland and grand architecture, the Maison Caillebotte 20 km from Paris offers a glimpse into a lesser-known slice of Impressionism.

Caillebotte House, home of Gustave Caillebotte, set in gardens.
Maison Caillebotte – Photo: Carol Perehudoff

It Makes an Easy Day Trip From Paris

Easily accessible by RER D line on the train, this beautifully restored 19th-century estate with its expansive grounds offers a rare look into the private life of Gustave Caillebotte, an influential yet often overlooked figure in the Impressionist movement.

The Impressionists

As I stood in front of the Italian-style manor, the sun making a brief appearance from behind silver-edged clouds, I realized this was an artist I didn’t know much about.

When I think of Impressionism my mind skips first to superstars like Monet, Degas, and Renoir before meandering to Pissarro (one of my favourites), Sisley and Berthe Morisot.

Now, after diving into Impressionism on a recent trip to France, I’ll also think of Gustave Caillebotte, an artist undergoing a groundswell of popularity, both in France and North America.

Tip: Don’t miss an upcoming Caillebotte exhibition in autumn 2024 at the Musée d’Orsay.

The elegant dining room in the Maison Caillebotte in Yerres, France.
Get a glimpse of 19th-century life at the Caillebotte estate in Yerres, France – Photo: Carol Perehudoff

Was Gustave Caillebotte an Impressionist?

Interesting question. (So glad I asked it.)

Gustave Caillebotte painted with the Impressionists, partied with the Impressionists and purchased their work. Whether or not he was an Impressionist is up for debate.

Born in 1848, and trained in art at the prestigious École Nationale des Beaux-Arts, he was a painter who combined aspects of Impressionism with a mastery of perspective and classical techniques.

An Art World in Flux

Let’s put that in context. The second half of the 19th century was a time when grand themes and a realistic style of painting ruled the art world.

Yet the more immediate approach of the Impressionist artists, who sought to express moments and light rather than permanence, and liked to focus on every day scenes, was butting its way in.

It was the battle of the art movements – with money and careers at stake – and what is so fascinating about Gustave Caillebotte is that his work embodies this flux, while adding an originality of his own.

Two self portraits of Gustave Caillebotte who painted with the Impressionists.
Self portraits by Gustave Caillebotte – Photo: Carol Perehudoff

So Who Was Gustave Caillebotte?

By all accounts Caillebotte was a generous sensitive man, and died far too early, at the age of 45.

One thing that set him apart from many other Impressionists is that he was rich.

A passionate patron of the arts, he used his wealth to support friends such as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Camille Pissarro, financing and organizing exhibitions and collecting their work.

When I say he collected their work, I mean he bought a lot of it.

Renoir painting called Dance at le Moulin de la Galette.
This painting by Renoir, the Dance at the Moulin de la Galette, was first owned by Gustave Caillebotte – Photo: Carol Perehudoff

A Visionary Art Collector

Caillebotte’s collection, which he left to the French State (although they didn’t really want it and rejected a good portion of it), forms the core of the Impressionist collection at the Musée d’Orsay today.

Some of the museum’s most famous works such as Renoir’s famous Dance at the Moulin de la Galette and Monet’s La Gare Saint-Lazare came from Caillebotte’s collection.

Reproduction of Boating on the Yerres with a boat in front.
A reproduction of Boating on the Yerres by Gustave Caillebotte – Photo: Carol Perehudoff

Why Visit His Estate?

Like visiting Monet’s house and garden in Giverny (though it’s a very different experience), the Caillebotte Estate gives art lovers a chance to go behind the canvas and get a backstage view of the times.

Built in 1830, the property became the Caillebotte summer home in 1860 and stayed in the family until 1879.

With its clean lines, graceful columns and Neoclassical elements, it’s a fine example of Restoration-style architecture.

Yet for some, the 27-acre grounds with its follies, water features and gardens are even more of a draw.

They were certainly fertile soil for Caillebotte, who produced more than 80 artworks during his time here.

Travelling to Paris? Check out these handy Paris tips.

The dining room with murals at Le Casin, the house on the Caillebotte Estate.
Chef-designed dining room at the Maison Caillebotte – Photo: Carol Perehudoff

Things to Do at the Maison Caillebotte

Tour the House

The first room to catch your attention is the dining room, a striking room of warm wood and delicate murals that opens directly off the entrance hall.

It’s a rather unusual layout for a home and you can credit a food-loving previous owner, Pierre Frédéric Borrel, for making the dining room such a focal point.

Pierre Frédéric Borrel

A renowned chef who owned the acclaimed Au Rocher de Cancale restaurant in Paris, Borrel bought the property in 1824 and proceeded to transform it into a sumptuous estate.

Past the Napoleon-style living room is the rich red decor of the billiards room, where a reproduction of an unfinished painting by Caillebotte matches the scene.

Billiard room from the 19th century with rich red decor.
The billiard room – Photo: Carol Perehudoff

The Pride of the House

The jewel of the home, however, is the Empire-style bedroom. With a rich decor of polished wood and emerald green fabrics, it’s the only room to contain the original home’s furnishings.

And it’s there by a stroke of luck.

After the property underwent a 20-year restoration (20 years!), the bedroom furniture fortuitously came up for auction.

The Maison Caillebotte was able to purchase it and have it restored by some of the country’s leading artisans in time for the estate’s reopening in 2017.

Original bedroom furnishings in the Caillebotte House just outside Paris.
The original bedroom furnishings in the Caillebotte House – Photo: Carol Perehudoff

See the Studio

On the top floor of the house is the Atelier, Caillebotte’s former studio, where a changing rotation of exhibitions take place.

When I was there for the 150th anniversary of Impressionism I was able to see a handful of smaller Caillebotte paintings as well as a Monet.

What You Won’t See at the Caillebotte House and Gardens

If you’re expecting to see major original works by Caillebotte, however, you may be disappointed.

His most celebrated pieces such as Paris Street, Rainy Day, now at the Chicago Institute of Art, and Floor Scrapers at the Musee d’Orsay, have been snapped up by institutions or are held in private collections.

And there is fierce competition for his works.

Park with lilac and light rain.
Stroll the property’s park, an expanse of greenery in Yerres – Photo: Carol Perehudoff

Visit the Park and Gardens

Free to enter, the English-style park is ideal for strolling, with leafy trees, flowerbeds, statues, and ornamental follies.

A separate kitchen garden is maintained by volunteers, and if you get a chance to go into the 7-metre deep ice house, it is – pardon the pun – a very cool experience.

An Asian-style folly in the Caillebotte gardens.
One of the many picturesque follies on the Caillebotte Estate – Photo: Carol Perehudoff

Caillebotte and Monet

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As I walked the grounds, passing a few locals walking their dogs, I tried to imagine Caillebotte here with Monet, hands behind their backs as they extolled the virtues of one type of tree over another. (There are more than 30 species on the property.)

Fast friends, the two men shared a passion for gardening, and the footbridge on the Caillebotte Estate was apparently the inspiration for Monet’s own bridge at Giverny.

Metal footbridge over a stream.
Scenic footbridge – Photo: Carol Perehudoff

Go Boating on the River

Another passion of Caillebotte’s was boating. He designed them, rowed them and sailed them, and many of his most inventive paintings have a water theme.

Often, in masterpieces like Rower in a Top Hat (recently purchased for the Musée d’Orsay for a cool 43 million Euros), Caillebotte used a bold perspective that puts you face to face with the rower.

It’s almost as if you’ve become a participant in the action rather than a spectator.

(Let me just add, he was masterful at depicting men’s forearms in action, and he painted them quite a lot.)

The Yerres River, which borders the property, was an ideal playground for water sports, and you can become a real participant in Caillebotte’s world by renting a boat here during the peak summer season and working your forearms yourself.

Cafe Gustave outdoor patio in the rain.
Patio at Cafe Gustave – Photo: Carol Perehudoff

Take a Break at the Cafe Gustave

If all that activity wears you out, visit the Cafe Gustave.

Located in a Swiss-style chalet opposite the house, the restaurant has a patio overlooking the grounds.

It’s a scenic place to unwind with a cup of tea and a house-made pastry. (I ate three, and I didn’t even go boating or work my forearms at all.)

Is a Visit to Caillebotte House and Gardens Worth It?

Absolutely. Once you’ve had your fill of major Impressionist collections at top sights like the Musée d’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie, it’s immensely satisfying to escape into the greater Paris region and immerse yourself in an Impressionist-era world.

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Make it a Weekend

We stayed overnight at the Demeures de Varennes in nearby Varennes-Jarcy.

About 9 km from the Caillebotte House, it’s a 4-star Best Western Signature Property with the feel of a country estate.

What ties it well with a visit to the Maison Caillebotte are the reproductions of Caillebotte’s paintings that you’ll find throughout the property.

Dining here is a pleasure.

Fresh cuisine with fish and tomatos.
Fresh cuisine at Demeures de Varennes – Photo: Carol Perehudoff

Their restaurant, La Table de Varennes, has a rustic country feel and focuses on local, organic and sustainable agricultural products.

We stayed in a new section, but the estate itself dates back to 1740. Right now a spa with a hammam is being constructed and is scheduled to open in the fall of 2024.

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How to Visit the Maison Caillebotte

Visitor Information:

  • Address: 10 Rue de Concy, 91330 Yerres, France
  • Opening Hours: From mid March to November, the Maison Caillebotte is open from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. except Mondays. From November to March the house is open on weekends and bank holidays.
  • Ticket Prices: €12 for adults, discounts for children, students, and seniors
  • The Park: The park can be visited daily and entrance is free.
  • Visit: the website for more information.

Getting There:

  • By Train: Take the RER D line from Paris to Yerres. It takes 25 minutes. From there it’s a 10-minute walk or taxi ride to the estate.
  • By Car: The drive is approximately 30 minutes from Bercy, but give yourself time to get through Paris traffic.
Maison Caillebotte interior and exterior.

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