In addition to being an accomplished painter, Caillebotte was an experienced yachtsman who designed his own boats and at one point ran an industrial shipyard.
In “Regatta at Argenteuil,” from 1893, Caillebotte puts one of his boat designs on display in a way that directly recalls maritime painters of the Enlightenment, who were depicting the merits of naval vessels, Finamore said.
Caillebotte’s painting is impressionistic in its use of thick impasto in the foreground, where light plays on water, and also in the way it captures side, bow and stern views of a boat in motion.
But this portrait is also bragging about the boat’s ability to capture the wind’s power while running downwind, at the same time that it is nimble enough to sail against the wind at a good clip.
“He captured those attributes of his boats which a sailor would recognize to be the sleekest,” Finamore said. “So, this is as much a claim for the excellence of his watercraft as it is a tour de force of painting.”
IF YOU GO What: "Impressionists on the Water" When: Through Feb. 17. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Mondays (except Dec. 30). Open the third Thursday of every month until 9:30 p.m. Where: Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex St., Salem Admission: Adults $18, seniors $15, students $10; youths (16 and under) and Salem residents admitted free More information: 978-745-9500 or www.pem.org