The artisan worker

The artisan worker

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Title: Floor planers.

Author : CAILLEBOTTE Gustave (1848 - 1894)

Creation date : 1875

Date shown: 1875

Dimensions: Height 102 - Width 146.5

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage place: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowskisite web

Picture reference: 90EE791 / RF 2718

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

Publication date: April 2005

Historical context

Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) shows craftsmen at work in a bourgeois apartment possibly located in the Monceau plain, in the west of Paris, one of the districts resulting from the renovation of Paris by Haussmann under the Second Empire.

This architectural transformation profoundly modified the social fabric by compartmentalizing the population categories even more: the "vertical" distribution, which assigned the upper floors to the servants, was succeeded by a "horizontal" distribution. This image speaks of manual labor and professions that have now disappeared.

Image Analysis

The painting surprises with its subject matter (of little people in whom it was not customary to be interested) as well as with its high angle framing. Through these choices, the artist expresses his interest in authentic worker-craftsmen: the close-up on their arms testifies. He is aware of the arduousness of their task and shows it: they work on their knees, their skin glistening with sweat. The network of geometric lines encloses these men in a rigid universe from which the viewer's gaze cannot escape either.

But more than compassion, this is a celebration: their powerful musculature is highlighted by the grazing light. Caillebotte treats his subject with a dignity and a sobriety which excludes any miserability. Through the warmth of the colors, it is a question of expressing the nobility of the work, the quality of the material: wood. These men are also supportive of each other - their actions match, without the need for words. Little individualized, they are reduced to their function. It is rather on the social dimension that the artist insists: these craftsmen painfully earn their living by fitting out an interior whose stucco and forged irons express the luxury. They fulfill their destiny, which does not lack greatness.


Caillebotte here celebrates the dignity of workers and the love of a job well done. It values ​​the quality and competence of workers, their solidarity. The beauty of the painting reflects on these workers and re-qualifies them: it invites them to be taken into consideration at a time which focused on modest circles a look often marred by negative or miserable prejudices.

  • naturalism
  • workers


Dominique SERRE-FLOERSHEIM, The Literary and Artistic Currents, Volume I "Modern period 1850-1930, from image to text", Grenoble, C.R.D.P. of Grenoble-Delagrave, 1998.

To cite this article

Fleur SIOUFFI, "The artisan worker"

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