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Gustave Caillebotte

Gustave Caillebotte, Luncheon, 1876, oil on canvas, 20 1⁄/2 × 29 1/2". © Comité Caillebotte

AS LIFE IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY sped up, so did the century’s art. Paintings created in “fifteen minutes,” as the poet and critic Jules Laforgue described Impressionism in 1883, characterized a novel kind of picture built of hectic signs: Freewheeling brushstrokes encoded both the materiality of paint and the abruptness with which it seemed to have been applied. A lack of focus, coupled with odd angles and viewpoints, became the new pictorial norm, and constantly changing social protocols became painting’s primary theme. Impressionism thus chronicled the profound cultural shifts of its era; its blurs and unfinished appearance made movement and a particularly modern sense of time its chief subject. No longer allegorical, time in Impressionism was now literal, which is to say it could be measured in the terms industry and capital both furnished and understood.

Gustave Caillebotte

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