The luxury goods conglomerate LVMH has given a Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) painting to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris worth a whopping €43 million (£38.3 million). According to experts, it was one of the last Impressionist masterpieces still in private hands before the donation.
Painted between 1877 and 1878, Le Partie de Bateau (The Boating Party) depicts a close-up view of a man serenely rowing on the Yerres river near a holiday property owned by the Caillebotte family in South-East Paris. Caillebotte immersed the viewer into the painting by positioning them as the passenger inside the boat. His talent, however, was largely overlooked in his lifetime because he never needed to sell his work due to his vast family wealth.
“The Boat Party has a photographic and cinematographic force absolutely unprecedented for the time, which sets Caillebotte apart from all the other geniuses of Impressionism,” explained Christophe Leribault, director of the Musée d’Orsay.
But Caillebotte was not only a gifted artist, he also used his inheritance to support fellow artists and to fund his passion for collecting. After his death in 1894, his collection of 38 major Impressionist paintings was donated to the French State. It eventually became the foundation of the Musée d’Orsay, which opened in a distinctive converted train station in 1986.
Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Impressionism – the first ever Impressionist exhibition opened in 1874 at 35 Boulevard des Capucines in Paris. Celebrations have been planned to mark the occasion, including the display of ‘The Boating Party’ at several locations across France. The majority of the Musée d’Orsay’s substantial collection of Impressionist works will also be exhibited in 20 museums across France.
“Thanks to the patronage of LVMH, I am delighted that this masterpiece enriches our heritage and will be shown in several towns across France,” stated the French culture minister, Rima Abdul Malak. “It is the first time that such an initiative has been organised for a national treasure.”
Before donating the valuable painting, LVMH purchased it from the artist’s descendants who still retain many of Caillebotte’s pieces. It is one of the most significant contributions to the Musée d’Orsay’s collection in recent years, with their annual acquisitions budget usually platforming around €3 million (£2.6 million).