Friday Art: The Floor Scrapers by Gustave Caillebotte (1875)

Last week’s rainy city street that reminded me of a Caillebotte painting reminded me how much I love Caillebotte’s work in general.

This one, much like Paris Street Rainy Day, demonstrates his amazing ability in depicting the reflection of light on different surfaces – the stained portion of the floor versus the scraped ‘n’ clean floor versus the skin on the backs of the workers versus what’s coming through the window.

We’re in the viewing position of supervisor, I guess… standing over this trio as they hand scrape the finish from the old floor to prepare for whatever the new one is. Similar to the realistic depictions of everyday workers in works by Courbet or Millet, only now we get urban workers instead of rural ones… and I’m sure the two guys on the right with those tilted heads are having a conversation about how this kind of work truly sucks.

“Scraping the paint off of hardwood floors/the hours are pretty bad” as Fountains of Wayne sang in “Hackensack.”

A depressing song, a depressing job, I guess…. but Good GOD look at those brilliant light effects from Caillebotte’s brush. This painting got mixed reviews from critics upon its first showing after it got rejected by the snooty Salon. Nice to know critics have always been stupid.

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