Edouard Manet painted Le Chemin de fer while he was living at 4 rue de Saint-Petersbourg near the Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris.This painting had two characters: a young woman, looking directly at the viewer, sitting, a book between her hands, a choit beagle asleep in her arms and to her left, a young girl with her back to the viewer, looking out towards the horizon of the painting. Using the pure characteristics of white buttons and lacy cuffs and the dark blues of the girl’s dresses ,Manet contrasts these with the bold black bars separating the young girls from the station.
We can perceive the clouds of smoke just about to cover the canvas, as it rises from the inbound trains ; just to the right, in a small corner of the painting, is a small part of the iron trellis of the pont de l’Europe. This large, x-crossed girder which was the backdrop for Manet, Caillebotte and Monet’s paintings of the Gare, is no longer standing.
It has been replaced by a cheap, rusty wire fence which unfortunately brings the viewer back to the 21st century.In figure 2, you can see my photo of part of the original iron girder bridge off of rue de Saint-Petersbourg which is still standing today.
One can also see the apartments on the rue de Rome on the left side of the painting, where Manet’s friend and fellow painter, Monet, had his studio (fig 3).
As you stand at the place de l’Europe, the intersection of the rues named after famous cities in Europe: Londre, Vienne, Petersbourg, Hamburg, Naples, Lisbonne, Madrid, Amsterdam, Rome, are filled with the movement, the air, the reflections, which give the perspective of these impressionist painters of the 19th century, introducing the world to the new Paris.
Copyright 2015 by Robyn Lowrie. May be quoted in part or full only with attribution to Robyn Lowrie (www.frenchquest.com)