Are you in Paris and looking for a place for cooling down – and I am not talking of an ice cream parlour – then look no further. I have found such a place for you. It is 23 kms (14 miles) south-east of Paris and the RER D train will get you there […]

Caillebotte Park, Yerres.

Caillebotte Park, Yerres. (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)


Are you in Paris and looking for a place for cooling down – and I am not talking of an ice cream parlour – then look no further.

I have found such a place for you.

It is 23 kms (14 miles) south-east of Paris and the RER D train will get you there in 20 minutes.

It is the Park of Caillebotte in the town of Yerres (pronounced like ‘yes’ but with an ‘r’ at the end and not an ‘s’) which is in the Essonne department – département.

The ‘Caillebotte’ comes from Gustave Caillebotte the impressionist painter as the property was once the residence of the Caillebotte family.


The Caillebotte family mansion

The Caillebotte family mansion (cc Marilyn Z, Tomlins)

I enjoyed a few wonderful cool hours in the park this past week when the mercury in Paris hit the mid-thirties. I went to see an exposition of Gustave Caillebotte’s paintings which was held in what used to be the family residence. Cry your eyes out because the exposition which had begun on Saturday, April 5 ended on Sunday, July 20.

The park though is waiting for you to come and share in what once only the Caillebottes could.

The family was wealthy Parisians who had moved to Yerres when Gustave, one of three sons, was growing up. He began to study law in Paris but after graduation he began to paint, law playing a minor role in his life. Because of the family wealth, he never had to wonder, like Vincent van Gogh for example, how he will be able to buy his next tube of paint. He could also indulge in his favourite pastimes – canoeing, swimming and fishing. Not that his wealth, indeed his easy life, in any way made him a lesser artist than – and again I will give Vincent van Gogh as an example. No, it instead gave him a keen eye for beauty: he certainly was not blind to beauty.


Gustave Caillebotte -Self-portrait.

Gustave Caillebotte -Self-portrait.

As I am not writing this piece to tell you about Caillebotte the artist, but about the Caillebotte the park, I will only say that Gustave died in 1894 just 45 years old. He never married. His 800 or so paintings are mostly in private ownership today (with family members mostly), but you can see several in Paris’s Orsay Museum – Musée d’Orsay.  The painting many (including me) consider his most beautiful – L’Yerres, effect pluie – an oil on canvas of 81×59 cm created in 1875 is in the Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington. It was on loan for the exposition.   (The Yerres, Effect of Rain.)

The Yerres - Effects of Rain

The Yerres – Effects of Rain

The Yerres of the painting is of course Yerres River. I will forgive you if you have never heard of it while I will also confess that until I had read about the Caillebotte exposition I had not heard of either the river or the town of Yerres.

The river’s source is a pond near the town of Courbon in the Seine-et-Marne Department – département – of France and 87 km (54 miles) later it flows into the River Seine at the town of Villeneuve-Saint-Georges. For all of 18 kms (11 miles) it cuts through the Essonne Department. (By the way, there are two French words for the word ‘river’.  These are fleuve and rivière.  A fleuve is a river that flows into the sea. A riviere is a river which flows – well into another river. A French friend – hello Hélène! – pointed this out to me when I erroneously called the Seine a riviere when it is a fleuve.)

Yerres River July 2014 (2)

The Yerres River as it flows through the park (cc Marilyn Z, Tomlins)

In the Essonne Department the Yerres forms the eastern boundary of Caillebotte Park. The river just 6 m (19 feet) deep at its deepest point, which is not where it flows through the park, there is no roaring rush of water to disturb those seeking a quite time in the park, but only a soft rustle of water over small stones.

caillebotte swimmers in theYerres

Swimmers by Gustave Caillebotte

The park’s main entrance is on Rue de Concy, at Number 8, and easily reached on foot from the RER station of Yerres. Sign boards will direct you to ‘Caillebotte’.  If you are going by car there is a free parking area and even more sign boards will direct you to it.

Caillebotte Park (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Caillebotte Park (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Entrance to the park, unlike the entrance to that of Versailles, is free and right ahead of you will be a vast and immaculate lawn. On your right you will see the Le Chalet du Parc restaurant and tearoom. You will be able to lunch from noon to 2.30 p.m., enjoy tea and pastries from 3 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. and dinner from 7.30 p.m. to 10.30 pm. The three-course fixed menu comes to $39: so yes it is steep.  (£31 / $53) And remember this does not include wine and coffee. Or the tip!  (So what do you tip? For 2 of you, €5 will be generous and €10 will have the owner himself coming to the door to shake your hand and wish you a speedy return.)

However, if you do not want to begin your visit to the park with food or drink, I suggest that you stay on the right-hand side of the park to walk along the river. You will be able to admire the lovely houses on the other bank: know though that it is not all that wise these days to live on the bank of a river or lake because of flooding.

House on Yerres River

House on Yerres River (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)


In the months of June, July and August you can hire a canoe or small rowing boat for sailing the river.

The timetable and prices are:

June: Wednesdays, weekends and public holidays from 3 p.m. to 7 pm.

July and August: Every day except Monday, and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

A boat for 4 people maximum for half-an-hour will cost €5 (£4 / $6), and €9 (£7 / $12) for an hour.

A canoe for 3 people maximum for half-an-hour will cost €4 (£3 / $5)  and €7 (£5 / $9) for an hour.

Bridge over Yerres River in the town of Yerres (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Bridge over Yerres River in the town of Yerres (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)


Walking along the river you will reach the ‘kitchen garden’ – Le jardin potager – and believe me whether you are a gardener or not, the beauty of the flowers and the perfection of the vegetables grown there will captivate you. The kitchen garden is supposed to be open only on a Sunday afternoon from 3 until 8.30, but I was there on a Tuesday and visitors were allowed in. It is though closed on Saturday mornings because this is when the gardeners are on site and doing the gardening. You will see from the photos how they put paintings done by locals throughout the garden.

Yerres Caillebotte July 2014 (11)

The Caillebotte kitchen garden (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Perfect flower in the Caillebotte kitchen garden (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Perfect flower in the Caillebotte kitchen garden (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)


As I said there is no entry charge for the park. There is an entrance fee when there is an exposition, but only to the exposition: the park remains free. The fee is usually €8 (£6.50  / $11.50) for an adult.


You can see here about future expositions. I think the November 8 to December 14 will be well worth visiting. It is the 4th International Pastel Salon – 4eme edition du salon international du pastel. And next spring there will be a sculpture exposition, the 4th Edition of Sculptures – Biennale de Sculpture.

There is not much to see in the town of Yerres itself (Pop 28,800), but there is a nice café/brasserie which is almost next to the Caillebotte property. It is the l’Avant-Scène. Do not expect a gourmet meal as you would be able to enjoy in the Le Chalet du Parc, but you will be able to have some nice cream cakes and creamy coffee for a fraction of the latter’s price.

If you are going to use public transport to reach Yerres, I suggest you buy the 24-hr Mobilis ticket. The ticket is sold by zone (1-2; 1-3; 1-4 and 1-5) and Yerres is in Zone 4. The ticket will therefore cost you €11.20. However remember that the ticket is valid for 24 hours from the time you validate it on entering a station.


Caillebotte Park (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Caillebotte Park (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Yerres River (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins) as it flows peacefully through the park.

Yerres River (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins) as it flows peacefully through the park.

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

3 Responses

7-24-2014 at 17:03:06

Dear Marilyn,

I thought you might like to know a little bit of history about Caillebotte Parc, and the family. Here’s an article in wrote and share frequently.

Andy Carr
American cousin of Guatave Caillebotte.


Caillebotte, Degas, Ingres, & Napoleon Bonaparte: The Family Connections & Genealogy.

Gustave Caillebotte was a 3rd cousin to Paul de Launay (my grandfather) and Paul Valpinçon. The latter two (the two Pauls) were 2nd cousins to each other. Paul Valpinçon was the lifelong friend of Edgar Degas mentioned in your art history books, and it was through Valpinçon whom Degas was introduced to Caillebotte…and thus began the era of French Impressionism.

178 km west of Paris, on a vast and grand French estate in Normandie that remained in our family for 152 years, next to the Chateau there is an art studio that my cousin, Paul Valpinçon, built for his lifelong dear friend, Edgar Degas. It was built with a large window so that Degas could paint during inclement weather. This was the vast estate of the Valpinçon family chateau (French castle), and originally spanned over 250 acres. The property was originally purchased by René Valpinçon (Paul de Launay’s grand uncle), in 1822, and it remained in our family until 1974. The current owner was very instrumental in having the estate designated a French historical landmark just a couple of years ago.

Paul de Launay’s paternal grandmother was Marie Valpinçon, sister of René Valpinçon.

Today this estate is about half of its original size, as each time it is sold, French law allows farmers to buy the acreage they are renting to farm. Other physical changes are a water fountain in the front of the main house, and a metal Russian coat of arms of a recent owner is now bolted over the original Valpinçon coat of arms which are over both the back and main entrances.

Both Paul & Marguerite Valpinçon died on the estate, Paul on 13 Oct 1894, and Marguerite on 7 Oct 1898. The chateau passed to Paul Valpinçon’s son Henri, who never married. Although Paul Valpinçon’s daughter, Hortense, was alive and well when Henri died on 28 Oct 1942, the chateau passed to a male cousin, a grandson of Paul Valpinçon’s brother, as was the French custom. Hortense’s only son, Raymond Paul Édouard Fourchy, had already died prematurely on 7 Dec 1937, at the age of 48.

Paul Valpinçon, his wife Marguerite, and their children, Henri and Hortense, were all painted and/or drawn by Degas. There are also several paintings of the interior of the chateau by Degas. Degas remained a close friend of the Valpinçon family, especially Hortense until his death on 27 Sep 1917.

Renoir painted the children of Martial Caillebotte (Jr. – not really a Jr., but you can think of him that way), who was the younger brother of Gustave. Caillebotte himself painted his younger brothers, mother, several 1st cousins, and Mlle Boissière (located at the Houston MFA) who was a woman on Alfred’s mother’s side of the family.

Alfred’s mother, Adèle Zoé Boissière) Caillebotte, was my great-grandfather’s 1st cousin, while Martial Caillebotte, the father, was his 2nd cousin.

First cousins share the same grandparents, 2nd cousins share the same great-grandparents, 3rd cousins share the same great-great grandparents, and so on. While I have some 1st and 2nd cousins in my fathers side that we rarely communicate with, our family still remains closely connected with our Valpinçon and Caillebotte cousins who are now 4th and 5th cousins.

The 1808 painting by Jean Auguste Dominic Ingres, titled “The Valpinçon Bather” was a gift of neo-classical painter, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres to René Valpinçon. Although the woman in the painting is not a Valpinçon family member to our knowledge, the painting was given the Valpinçon family name at some point we have yet to determine, and it stayed in the family until 1879 when it went to the Louvre where it resides today. It was also through the Valpinçon family that both Degas & Caillebotte met their idol, Ingres.

Paul Valpinçon and Gustave Caillebotte (along with my grandfather, Paul de Launay) were close cousins who lived just three blocks from each other in Paris, and was the relationship through which Caillebotte also met Edgar Degas, and became involved with the French Impressionist movement.

A nephew of René Valpinçon and his sister Marie was Jules Valpinçon, who became the son-in-law of Martin Guillaume Biennais. Biennais was the jeweler who crafted the Crown Jewels for the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1804, and they are also in the Louvre.

This same Jules Valpinçon is also the namesake of my great-grandfather, Jules de Launay (1813-1892), and is listed as godfather on Jules de Launay’s baptismal record (1813), along with Jules’ maternal aunt, Anne (neé Valpinçon) Boissiére. Anne was the mother of Martial Caillebotte’s first wife, Adèle Zoé Boissière. Anne is Paul de Launay’s grand aunt, and she is the sister of René & Marie Valpinçon . Zoé’s son, Alfred Caillebotte, was a Catholic priest and half-brother of French Impressionist artist Gustave Caillebotte, having different mothers.

This makes Anne 1) the grand aunt of Paul Valpinçon (lifelong friend of Degas), 2) the grandmother of Alfred Callebotte (half-brother of Gustave), and 3) 1st cousin of Martial (the father) Caillebotte’s mother, Adelaïde Françoise Féron.

Upon the death of Paul de Launay’s father, Dr. Jules de Launay on 27 Mar 1892, Alfred Caillebotte offered to make the sons of Annie de Launay (Paul & Gaston de Launay, both Protestants) the sole heirs to Alfred’s estate if only the boys would be raised in the Catholic Church. Annie refused. Alfred died 17 May 1896.

When the wife of Martin Guillaume Biennais, Madame Biennais died in 1869, her chateau in Yerres was purchased by Martial Caillebotte (father of Gustave) in a private family auction. Martial’s 2nd cousin, Jules Valpinçon (mentioned above) was married to one of the daughters of Biennais. This property in Yerres is the same property where Gustave Caillebotte painted his first known paintings. So, the sale of this 27 acre estate was literally a sale between cousins.

My grandfather, Paul de Launay (1878-1951), was an artist, sculture, and organist trained in Paris, who was also a student of Léon Bonnat. Bonnat was a very famous French artist, and one of Caillebotte’s first teachers. Paul de Launay came to the U.S. in 1903 and became one of the top organists in the country, and a lesser known artist than his famous cousin, but was finally awarded the French Légion d’honneur in 1950, just before his death in 1951.

On our Facebook page, linked below, I have posted a photo of Alfred Caillebotte, who was as you may have guessed by now, was both a 3rd cousin AND a half-brother to Gustave. Alfred’s parents were indeed 2nd cousins to each other and were married on 16 Jan 1810 in Paris. Alfred’s mother was the first wife of Martial Caillebotte, and she died 12 Dec 1836, just four days after their daughter, Leonie (age 6) died.

Martial Caillebotte married his 2nd wife, Eugénie Séraphine Lemasquerier, in 1843. She died 12 Jan 1844, 6 days after giving birth to their son, Max, who died the day he was born.

Martial’s 3rd wife was Gustave’s mother, Cèleste Daufresne, and they married on 21 Oct 1847. Cèleste was also the niece of the 2nd wife of Martial Caillebotte, but only 5 years younger. All of the wives and children, and some grandchildren, are buried in the Caillebotte Tomb at Pére Lachaise.

The Caillebotte, Valpinçon, and de Launay descendants (some American), now 4th, 5th, and 6th cousins, who all maintain very close family ties with each other and still frequently gather as a family in Paris, and Normandie.

Our French family historical blog with much more detail and many more stories can be found at

and on FB at

7-24-2014 at 17:14:18

I’m sorry. I wrote Martial Caillebotte’s first wife, Adéle Zoé Boissière’s marriage date incorrectly. 1810 was her birth date. They were married 10 May 1828.


7-24-2014 at 18:13:36


Thank you so very much for telling us about Gustave Caillebotte. I do appreciate it so very much.

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