Forget Monet’s water lilies. If you want to get the feel of the Impressionists at home, study Gustave Caillebotte. Caillebotte was not such a great artist as Monet, Renoir or Degas, but, perhaps for that reason, reveals more of his domestic self.
Monet obsessively painted and repainted his garden at Giverny to observe the changing effects of light. Caillebotte was very different. In easy circumstances (his father was a bed manufacturer who supplied the army), he made a subject out of the boulevards being built by Baron Haussmann, often from his own balcony.
If you happen to be in the French capital before July 11, visit the Musée Jacquemart-André. They have an exhibition of Caillebotte’s paintings, shown beside photographs taken by his brother Martial. The comparison does Martial no favours: he was more of an enthusiast for his medium than an artist in it. But his snaps provide a different way of seeing the everyday.
Here is Martial’s wife, Marie, only head showing, in the bath; Martial himself, trimming his beard; children play in the garden of a weekend house. In his studio, Caille-botte works on a roll of paper: not drawing, but designing a yacht. While Degas could paint ballet girls, Caillebotte was supreme at boats. Book a timed ticket for this show: there are queues.