Gustave Caillebotte 1848-1894 BACK

The Floor Scrapers
oil on canvas 102x146cm
Musee d'Orsay

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When the first critical accounts of the 1876 exhibition appeared, its catalogue had not yet been printed and this painting's title, Raboteurs de parquets, had not yet been definitively assigned. Whether it was called Parqueteurs A l'ouvrage or Racleurs de parquet , the work instantly attracted notoriety because of its surprising subject. Louis Enault summed up the prevailing view as follows:
...The floor-scrapers of M. Caillebotte are certainly not at all badly painted, and the perspective effects have been well studied by an eye that sees accurately. I regret only that the artist did not choose his types more carefully, or that, from the moment he had accepted what reality offered him, he did not claim for himself the right, which I can assure him no one would have denied him, to interpret them more freely. The arms of his floor-scrapers are too thin, and their chests too narrow. Do the nude, gentlemen, if the nude suits you.... But either make your nude beautiful or leave it alone.

The message is clear; doubtless this was the principal rationale behind the work's probable rejection by the jury of the 1875 Salon, mentioned by the critic Emile B1emont. It also suggests why the official Salon catalogues of these years include so few depictions of workers, except for peasants, who were deemed acceptable.

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