Monet’s “Gare Saint-Lazare” 1877 (Musee d’Orsay)

The 1870’s brought a new social class to the city of Paris known as the petit bourgeois.  This was a mixing of social classes of large-scale industry with clerks, shop assistants, and the working class.  The urban life moved to grand boulevards and  grand magasins.  The Impressionists Monet, Manet, Renoir and Caillebotte, began to represent this new era of modernité  following the rebuilding of Paris by Napoleon III and his architect, Baron Haussmann, in their paintings in a way that had been previously excluded in the art world.  Shapiro states, « Early Impressionism depended on the momentary position of the casual or mobile spectator…spontaneous socialibility of breakfasts, picnics, promenades, boating trips, holidays and vacation travels of the 1860’s and 1870’s »(Modern Art of the 19th and 20th centuries, NY 1978).  The bourgeois became represented as the « refined consumer of luxary goods ».

Jules Laforgue described this new shift in painting as, « where the academic sees only lines at the edges of things, the Impressionists sees real living lines, without geometrical form, built from thousands of irregular touches which, at a distance, gives the thing life ». (Mélanges Posthumes.  pp. 136-38).

Many art critics  say that the Impressionists largely avoided spaces, perspectives and monuments of Hausmannization and that not until the 1890’s when Pissarro presented a full Hausmanian point de vue of the boulevards was the new, modern Paris represented.  I disagree with this statement.  I believe that the new Paris which was built around the Gare Saint-Lazare where most of these Impressionists lived and painted, was represented in the mid 1870’s by Monet, Manet, Renoir and Caillebotte in their paintings of these neighborhoods.  In the following series of posts, I will support my argument with visual and written support.

Copyright 2015 by Robyn Lowrie.  May be quoted in part or full only with attribution to Robyn Lowrie (