Photographing art

The outstanding French impressionist Gustave Caillebotte is the subject of a new exhibition at The Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, as Germany finally begins to catch up with the rest of the world in its appreciation and critical examination of the artist.
This is a fitting start. The gallery rightly chooses to explore Caillebotte in a very stylistic way, looking at the ultimate legacy of his work. His impressionistic disposition wasn’t as rigid as his contemporaries, which is evident in his oeuvre. He was effectively constructing in a non-artistic way.
His quasi-realistic paintings and drawings possess a vivid quality that suggests another medium altogether resulted in the end product. The final compositions of many of his works deliver perspectives that seem to belong more to photography than art, as do the thematic qualities of the pieces.
Taking this approach, The Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt has lined up 50 paintings and drawings from the nineteenth century artist and juxtaposed them against 150 photographs of exceptional quality, taken during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Out of this arrangement, we are able to understand the radical vision of Caillebotte, who was beginning to develop a new way of recording the many quiet wonders of life, which would only be properly realised with photography. Though, as the gallery explains, he went further than mere inception:
“Thanks to the unusual perspectives resulting from the way Caillebotte framed his windows on the world, many of his works anticipate a photographic view which would only gradually evolve in that medium.”
From the use of steep perspectives to the inclusion of minute distortions and unusual arrangements– cropped presentations – it is easy to see why Caillebotte is regarded as being just as influential as Auguste Renoir, Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas.
Gustave Caillebotte at The Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt runs until January 20th 2013.
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