After the 20-minute train ride south of Paris from Gare de Lyon, it’s just a few minutes’ walk to the Caillebotte Property. A 200-year-old cedar towers over the entrance to the property, which opens onto a well-kept 27-acre park open to the public. The visit starts at the big, white, Palladian-style stone house. The interior is lavishly decorated with period furniture, so visitors can see how the Caillebotte family lived and what a 19th-century bourgeois household would have looked like.
The ground floor features a dining room seating up to 36 guests, and a library with 6,000 books. The upstairs rooms offer a glimpse into the fascinating lives of Gustave Caillebotte and his brother, Martial, a talented photographer. Of particular note are the Empire-style bedroom and the painter’s studio, where Gustave produced over 80 Impressionist paintings, most of which were inspired by life on the family property. An artist of serene and leisurely scenes, he would sit under the shade of the tall trees and paint his family and friends swimming, canoeing, fishing, and gardening. When not on loan to other museums, five of Caillebotte’s original works are on display at Yerres: Portraits in the Country; Billiards; Yerres, from the Exedra, the Porch of the Family Home; The Wall of the Kitchen Garden, Yerres; and Portrait of Zoé Caillebotte.
The visit continues in the park, which features a number of attractions. Why not take a stroll through the 18,000-square-foot vegetable garden? Horticulture was one of Gustave’s many interests, and each year members of the Potager Caillebotte association continue to grow heirloom vegetables, flowers, fruits, and medicinal and aromatic plants. The property also has an aviary, which used to house an impressive collection of songbirds; a Swiss chalet, now converted into a restaurant; a Neo-Gothic chapel; an orangery; and an oriental pavilion. Wandering among the old statues, it’s easy to imagine yourself as a bourgeois from the Belle Epoque.
On weekends from May to September, visitors can rent rowboats and canoes, cast off from the tile-roofed jetty and explore the banks of the Yerres River. Caillebotte loved building and racing boats, and the river appears in many of his paintings. There’s also a nice walk along the water to Boussy-Saint-Antoine, a little town just a few kilometers away. You’ll recognize much of the surrounding scenery from Caillebotte’s work, and if you keep your eyes peeled you’ll spot a few water mills too.
Article published in the November 2020 issue of France-Amérique. Subscribe to the magazine.