A Working Class Hero is Something to Be

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Gustave Caillebotte, Les Rabateurs de Parquet (The Floor Scrapers), presented to The Paris Salon of 1875, is one of the first occasions that members of the urban proletariat had been displayed to the general public. The jury, shocked by its crude realism but voyeuristically fascinated, rejected it as “vulgar subject matter”. In choosing to submit himself simply to the rigorous formulae of traditional realist painters, Caillebotte eschews any of the political, social or moral messages of his contemporaries like Courbet or Millet. It is as if he were a documentarian exposing us only to gestures, tools and the accoutrements of these stripped down modern heroes of antiquity. One year later he, along with Edgar Degas, were the toast of the town. … Could there be a more apropos moment to take note that a working class hero is something to be?