Skiffs (1877)

Caillebotte, Gustave (1848-1894)

Oil on canvas, 88.9 x 116.2 cm
National Gallery of ArtWashington

We look slightly down onto the surface of a river in which three narrow canoes, each paddled by a single person, are being rowed toward us in this horizontal landscape painting. The rowers wear white shirts rolled up to the elbows, light blue pants, and straw-yellow, wide-brimmed hats pulled down over the eyes. They sit in the bottom of their boats with legs extended and the handle of the double-bladed paddle straddling the boat over their laps. The canoe closest to us comes almost directly toward us, angled slightly to our right as it cuts through the surface of the river, its tip extending off the bottom edge of the canvas. The second canoe is a couple of boat lengths behind and to our left of the closest canoe. The third is small in the distance, near the horizon that comes three-quarters of the way up the composition. The back end of a fourth canoe and a single paddle extends into the scene from the right edge of the canvas. The butter-yellow paddles are reflected in the pale sage green and sky blue of the river’s surface. The river is lined on both sides with lush trees and vegetation, which fills the top quarter of the painting above the horizon. (NGA)