During his time, Gustave Caillebotte was best known as an enthusiastic collector and supporter of the Impressionists. However, he was also an artist in his own right, driven by his fascination with the rapidly transforming landscape of Paris. In this work, the largest of five preparatory renderings for a final painting, Caillebotte took as his subject the recently built bridge spanning the railroad tracks leading to the Saint-Lazare station. Such a subject provided Caillebotte the opportunity to explore the impact of industrialization on the Parisian cityscape and its inhabitants. The artist was interested in not only modern subjects but also the latest means of representation, such as photography. Here, he imitated the dramatic cropping characteristic of this new medium. Additionally, he chose an exaggerated vantage point that is reinforced by the heavy, dramatic lines of the bridge itself and the way in which it marries with its cast shadow, creating an almost abstract composition.
Label from Humble and Human: An Exhibition in Honor of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., February 2–May 26, 2019