Monday Lectures

14 September 2020

A Sunday on the Grande Jatte - The Impressionists and Paris II

Georges Seurat, A Sunday on the Grande Jatte, 1884

Art Institute of Chicago

Georges Seurat's masterpiece, today at the Art Institute of Chicago, is in many ways the iconic representation of the Paris middle classes at the opening of the French Third Republic which succeeded Haussmann's and Napoleon III's Second Empire.


The Impressionists and the Neo-Impressionists after them were the first artists to present modern Paris in their paintings at a time when it was considered too recent, too ordinary and too vulgar a subject for art.


The new city boulevards, cafés, racecourses, parks and railway stations were an apt subject for the new painters. Like Haussmann’s urban planners, they, too, were keen on eliminating the historical past in order to create an art of the present and the future, reflecting the 19th century values of modernity, science and progress.


In our second lecture we will follow the evolution of the depictions of modern Paris from the 1870s through the Impressionist era (1874-1886) concluding with the Belle Epoque (1890-1910) when the subject becomes a standard staple of commercial art. Monet, Caillebotte, Degas, Renoir, Pissarro and Seurat are some of the best known modern masters we will be looking at along with the lesser known, but key Paris painters of the era: Goeneute, Forain, de Nittis, Béraud, Lhermitte, Laloue and Luce.


Claude Monet, Gare Saint Lazare, Arrival of a Train, 1877

Fogg Art Museum, Harvard