“Moret sur Loing, January 13/95
My dear friend,
I have just received several clippings from the Argus where the Caillebotte bequest is mentioned. Since the bequest is no longer accepted in its entirety, could there be a compromise, that a certain number of paintings will be eliminated, and will there therefore be a jury? Under these conditions, it seems to me that every artist should be consulted; what do you think?
If my idea seems right to you, talk about it to your friends in the Fine Arts and the Press.
A thousand greetings,
This unpublished letter from Alfred Sisley to a friend, presumably Pierre Auguste Renoir, documents the long and complex process of the State's acceptance of Alfred Caillebotte's (1848-1894) bequest after his death. This generous gift from the Société des Amis des Musées d'Orsay et de l'Orangerie (SAMO) in particular clarifies a very important moment in the history of the bequest, that of the selection of the works, and provides a better understanding of how the Impressionist artists envisaged the entry of their own works into the national collections.
The known documents show us that they expressed on several occasions - when it was a question of making a choice among the works of the legacy for the Musée du Luxembourg, first in the spring of 1894, then in January 1895 - their reluctance to see some of them presented in this museum. An article in the newspaper Le Tempsof January 13, 1895, on the Caillebotte Bequest reports these words attributed to Renoir and later confirmed by Martial Caillebotte: "There are in this collection quantities of sketches, studies that are not museum pieces.”
This was the same day that Sisley wrote Renoir the letter acquired by the Musée d'Orsay, no doubt after reading this article, to ask him how this selection would be made and to recommend that the artists themselves be consulted. Renoir undoubtedly transmitted this idea to Léonce Bénédite, curator of the Musée du Luxembourg, who then interviewed the painters represented in the collection to make this choice with them.
Of the nine paintings by Sisley present on the initial list of the Caillebotte bequest, three were finally withdrawn by the painter and the curator: Bords de la Seine, effet du soir [Banks of the Seine, evening effect](private collection), La Seine à Billancourt [The Seine at Billancourt](private collection) and Station de bateaux à Auteuil [Boat station in Auteuil](location unknown); leaving La Seine à Suresnes [The Seine in Suresnes], Rue à Louveciennes [Street in Louveciennes], Les régates à Molesey [The Boat Races in Molesey], Lisière de forêt au printemps [Edge of the Forest in the Spring], Cour de ferme à Saint-Mammès [Farmyard in Saint-Mammès] and Saint-Mammès.