Descriptive Essay about Rainy Day

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Gustave Caillebotte, Parisian-born and raised impressionist painter created the work Paris Street, Rainy Day in 1877. He was enrolled in the École des Beaux-Arts (Academy of Fine Arts), which was a very traditional art school, alongside other significant impressionist painters such as Monet, later whom he featured the work of alongside Paris Street, Rainy Day in one of his organized impressionist showcases in 1877. His studies mainly focussed on classical ideas, rather than his personal interest in modernism which lead to his unique and worldly recognized experimentalism within the impressionist style.

Paris Street, Rainy Day is one of the most famous genre paintings, the term genre is defined as the depiction of everyday life and situations in a non-realized way. This particular work of Caillebotte expresses pedestrians interacting, or rather not interacting with the rapidly changing and modernizing Paris. It showcases a number of people walking through the eastern side of the Rue de Turin, at an intersection iconic to Haussmann’s transformation of the urban design and planning of the Paris we know today. The subject matter of this painting includes the reaction of citizens to this movement and to the complete change of landscape, detaching the figures from the modernized space by the isolation and dysmorphia of their size through the composition of the grand architectural works.

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Caillebotte’s interest in the physicality of Paris led him to the interest and consciousness of these changes affecting the social context of modernizing cities. This work allowed him to reflect on his impression of the urban renewal of the city in which he was born and raised, by presenting a very mundane view of these changes, rather than the romanticized expression of the government and planners such as Haussmann.

Furthermore, Caillebotte among other impressionists showed interest in the depiction of social status, contrasting upper, middle, and working classes. The main focus of the composition is on a middle-class couple, presented in the well-regarded fashion of the time, the woman in a fur-lined coat, hat, and veil with the man finished with a waistcoat and bow tie. Contrastingly, there is a woman shown in the background wearing an apron, and another foreground figure carrying a ladder.

All foreground figures are accessorized with an umbrella, used as both shields of the rain and what can be viewed as shields from each other, avoiding contact with other pedestrians and also with the newly manufactured surroundings. The umbrellas also act as a method of guidance, using the motif for viewers to be led throughout the picture plane. Moreover, the rain makes the viewer understand that these people would be walking with a purpose at a faster rate to reach cover, rather than lingering in the space and pausing for social interaction or distraction given by surrounding areas such as shops or the monumental encompassing architecture. They also further distance characters from each other, with the diameter of the umbrella disallowing a shoulder to scrape past another on the shared footpath, as seen in the right side figures.

This ultimate isolation of characters shows them lost in their own thoughts, most expressions being downcasted and away from each other. Similarly, the depicted space in which they share is not regarded as a particularly central or large area, however, to enhance this common disregard of surroundings between pedestrians Caillebotte has exaggerated the width of roads and heights of buildings to further distance the figures.

This balanced and choreographed scene uses layouts and framing to further depict social contexts. Despite being guided by his own impression, Caillebotte constructed a stage for his characters using a two-point perspective from the central line of the building on the right, the sidewalk, and the intersection of streets and additionally divided the plane into quadrants through the poison line and central lamppost. The wide-angled view of the intersection, with the initial focus of viewers leading to the couple in the foreground, gives it a rather fish-eyed view, enhancing the perceived size of the space and crafting a rather dramatic overview of the actual location.

Alongside perspective, Caillebotte similarly uses color to create a perception of depth. As one travels further back into the scene the colors become more saturated and the details of people and buildings become increasingly unclear. The size of the figures similar becomes much smaller at a more rapid pace than in a realist painting, accentuating this distance, however, despite being labeled as an impressionist painting, Caillebotte’s reliance on line creates the illusion of reality.

He also dampers the mood of the scene through a setting that is presumably a cold winter's afternoon, with grey lighting shining through the cloud-filled sky, highlighting the puddles and wet pavement from the rainfall. Most impressionist paintings of the era seemed rather incomplete and had a more hasty view of the world, however, Caillebotte’s attention to detail in order to encapsulate the absolute mundaneness he felt towards the modernization of Paris sets this work apart from others.

In regard to the painting techniques present in the piece, Caillebotte’s use of delicate brushstrokes, intensive lines, and contours as well as completed forms is not seen as a typical impressionist style painting when contrasted to works like Monet, in which soft, broken brushstrokes are used. His attention to detail, such as the stylization of the cobblestone streets, completed with broad and exaggerated strokes of deep colors to create a flowing geometric pattern throughout the piece is recognized as modern stylization. Caillebotte’s take on impressionism was his interest in showing his depiction of the world as he saw it rather than creating a fantasy, which is showcased through this realism within his technique. Ultimately, this makes his understanding of the moods and facial expressions of his created characters calculated and persuasive.

Paris Street, Rainy Day is also a significantly large painting, 7 feet tall and 9 feet wide. This monumental scale creates the impression that the viewers themselves are able to walk pithing this streetscape and travel back to the social context in which Caillebotte is narrating. This work was initially exhibited in the Third Impressionist exhibition in Paris in 1877, which means attendees would have been witnessing the urban development for themselves, therefore it can be insisted that Caillebotte intended for it to make them further conscious of the negative results of modernism within their city.

Additionally, Caillebotte was heavily influenced by the upcoming artistry in the form of photography, reflected in the way in which he crops and composes the scene, attempting to recreate an impression of a singular moment in time and one that will never look exactly the same again due to the fast pace of his depicted Paris. Moreover, the man in the lower right corner is cropped in a way in which it seems he has just walked into the scene, furthering the illusion effect intended by Caillebotte that the audience is first-hand experiencing the emotion of the street among viewing this painting. However, it is a carefully crafted photograph with all characters, buildings, and smaller features such as the central lamp post perfectly positioned to complement each other and draw one's eye throughout the scene in a particular order.

Conclusively, this memorable and emotive artwork is world-renowned for Caillebotte’s personal and pessimistic opinions on the social context of Paris in the 1870s. When one is to think of impressionism what usually comes to mind is the subtlety of features and loose brushwork, however, the complex work of Caillebotte abnormally showcases a harsh perception of urban development through his individual painting style. Now located in the Art Institute of Chicago, one is able to enter 1877 through the monumental piece of art, which will remain momentous in the study of social and architectural history for years to come. Despite it being only his personal impression, manipulating the reactions of pedestrians to reflect his own personal understandings of Paris, his respective negative attitude is completely relevant in allowing expansive knowledge of the change past the contentment and ease of citizens amongst this complete re-shaping of the way in which Parisians lived and interacted with their city.

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Descriptive Essay about Rainy Day. (2023, November 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 25, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/descriptive-essay-about-rainy-day/
“Descriptive Essay about Rainy Day.” Edubirdie, 21 Nov. 2023, edubirdie.com/examples/descriptive-essay-about-rainy-day/
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Descriptive Essay about Rainy Day [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Nov 21 [cited 2024 Jul 25]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/descriptive-essay-about-rainy-day/
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