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Boulevard des Capucines in Paris

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1873, 61×80 cm • Oil, Canvas

Description of the artwork «Boulevard des Capucines in Paris»

Claude Monet executed two paintings with the view of the Boulevard des Capucines. One of them is here, in the collection of the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, and the other - in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas city. And both museums have the right to hope that it was their "Boulevard" that participated in the very First Impressionist Exhibition, which took place in Paris in 1874.

It is now impossible to find evidence in favor of one of the paintings, but one can get an idea of how this picture was perceived by the artist's contemporaries. The same art critic Louis Leroy from the newspaper Le Charivari, who called the young artists Impressionists, ruthlessly walked along the Boulevard des Capucines by Claude Monet. He wrote:
"But those spots were obtained by the same method as that used to imitate marble: a bit here, a bit there, slap-dash, any old way. It's unheard-of, appalling! I'll get a stroke from it, for sure."

The critic couldn't stop complaining about how outraged he was with the obscure dots in the lower part of the picture. "Then do I look like that when I'm walking along the boulevard des Capucines? Blood and thunder!" For the sake of justice, Monet really distorts the prospect of the boulevard and with the help of several tricks creates a sense of a quick, casual glance thrown from above to a noisy, crowded street.

The picture was painted from the balcony of the photographer Nadar's studio, which later hosted the First Impressionist Exhibition and where Louis Leroy came up with the term "Impressionism". According to the surviving photographs, we can assume that the photo studio occupied two upper floors of a 4-storey building. And judging by the perspective in which the houses on the opposite side of the street are painted, Monet stood with his easel on the third floor. Here all the facts add up. But the fiacres and passers-by are rendered as if the artist climbed at least on the roof, if not higher.

The paintings of the Impressionists were laughed at by both critics and viewers. The main reproach and occasion for ridicule was the underdevelopment, sketchiness, which the upstart artists dared to call the new value of painting. It was enough just to look at a few exemplary salon paintings of that time and compare them with the Boulevard des Capucines, to understand how enraged the critics were by the young artists' new pictorial and compositional choices.
Monet was not interested in people - he mercilessly cut off the figures of the two men standing on the balcony, leaving only a hat of one of them. The image of every person walking along the boulevard is made at best by three or four brush strokes. More often - by just one. The fiacres are drowning in a thick golden river, reflecting the sunlit street. And one brazen gold zigzag stroke was thrown almost in the center of the picture.

Monet was only interested in that light effect - a big shadow from the building, which at sunset cut a wide, sunny boulevard. And also in a sense of continuous movement that was created solely by means of painting.

Author: Anna Sidelnikova
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About the artwork
Subject and objects: Urban landscape
Style of art and technique: Impressionism, Oil

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