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"The Floor Scrapers" by Gustave Caillebotte

"The Floor Scrapers" by Gustave Caillebotte


"The Floor Scrapers", a work made in 1875, is undoubtedly one of the most significant works by the French painter Gustave Caillebotte. It is an oil on canvas painting which is a manifesto of manual work, of the urban proletariat, until then little considered by the Impressionists of the time. 

The painter loved to paint scenes of everyday life that took place on the streets and in Parisian houses and thanks to his innovative technique inspired by that of photography he gave us many paintings which take us back in time and introduce us to everyday life in Paris in the 19th century. 

What the picture depicts

In the painting "The Floor Scrapers", Gustave Caillebotte portrays three workers on the job, three simple men who become the protagonists in this work, a real novelty given that most of Caillebotte's impressionist colleagues preferred to concentrate on outdoor work, on the gardens frequented by the Parisian bourgeoisie and on the social life of the French capital. 

Thanks to this painting and other works by Caillebotte, the "word" is also given to the common people, the workers and the scenes that took place within the homes of ordinary people.

Looking at this painting it seems like looking at a photograph placed under a magnifying glass, as you can perfectly distinguish even the smallest details, such as the small wooden curls, the tools used by the workers and even the bottle of wine. 

Clear, perfectly executed even in the smallest details and created by the artist in such a way as to offer a bird's eye view of this small scene depicting everyday reality, Gustave Caillebotte's painting is the perfect demonstration of the modernity that characterizes this painter. 

Although photography was still a novelty, as it did not begin to be known until 1850, Caillebotte was able to immediately grasp the power of this new technique, which made it possible to reproduce landscapes and subjects of all kinds. After having studied a lot every technique and aspect of photography, he began to transfer and apply the same techniques to his work, skilfully combining them with those of painting, and the results were decidedly innovative for that time. 

Gustave Caillebotte: the painter who was snubbed by his colleagues

Despite being an excellent painter, innovative and far-sighted, Gustave Caillebotte never enjoyed the esteem of his impressionist colleagues, even when the movement was strongly supported financially by Caillebotte himself. In fact, he bought several works by his impressionist colleagues and financed numerous projects which allowed the impressionist movement not to sink. 

Considered an amateur and a spoiled man who painted on a whim, Gustave Caillebotte was therefore a painter misunderstood by his colleagues, but this did not prevent him from continuing to paint. 

Little considered and sometimes even mocked by critics and colleagues, Caillebotte has been in the shadows for many years, which made him quite unknown even to the public. It wasn't until after the 1950s that his work became better known and today the critics recognise and appreciate his art.

Article by: Aurora Caraman

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