Monday Lectures

7 September 2020

Paris Street, Rainy Weather - The Impressionists and Haussmann's Paris

Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street, Rainy Weather, 1877

Art Institute of Chicago

Gustave Caillebotte’s masterpiece, today at the Art Institute of Chicago, is in many ways the iconic, even idealized, depiction of the new Paris created under the Second Empire and willed by Emperor Napoleon III and his prefect, Baron Georges Eugène Haussmann.

 

The Impressionists were the first artists to present this brand-new 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 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 from painting in order to create an art of the present and the future, reflecting the 19th century values of modernity, science and progress.

 

In our lecture we will follow the evolution of the depictions of modern Paris from the 1860s through the Impressionist era (1874-1886) concluding with the Belle Epoque (1890-1910) when the subject becomes a standard staple of commercial art. Manet, Monet, Caillebotte, 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: Forain, de Nittis, Béraud, Lhermitte, Lalaoue and Luce.

 

Claude Monet , Gare Saint Lazare, 1877

Musée d'Orsay, Paris