December 17, 2008

The third Republic occurred between 1870 and 1940, It was the political regime of France between the second republic and the Vichy regime. It followed the collapse of the Empire of Napoleon III in the Franco-Prussian war. During the Third Republic France was politically unstable as no government lasted more than a few months as many different political groups fought for control.

In this essay I will be focusing on Artists who use studies of Modernity as a basis for their works. Paris at the time was a brand new city because of the Haussman’s renovation of Paris. He brought Paris from being a medevil city into modern metropolis full of cafes, arcades and boulevards. There was much more in the city for the public to enjoy, outdoor activities were a main focus of this “New” Paris and thus became the focal point of many of the “Modern” artworks of the time. I am also going to focus on photographers who would have captured this vision of Modernity in Paris.


Start of the third Republic- 1870

Monet, Degas, Renoir gather in Monets house and form “the anonymous society of artists”-1873

Impressionists first show-1874

Large depression just before first show

1880 – Impressionism does well in America because of good art dealers

1910, 1920- Rich people use Impressionist paintings to decorate their houses and the Government decorate new official museums using them.

1907- Picassso painted “ Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” (the invention of Cubism)

1931- Nazi invasion of Poland

1937- Picasso paints “Guernica” as a response to the Nazi bombing of spain

1940- Nazi invasion of France, End of the Third Republic

Some of the artists who would have focused on this view of Paris would be Gustav Caillebotte (1848-1894), Georges Pierre Seurat (1859-1891), Edouard Manet (1832-1883), Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Toulouse Lautrec (1864-1901) and James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902) .

Paris at the time was a hotbed of creativity and social unrest. A lot of Artists would have

focused in on the spectacle of Modernity which Hausmanns renovations made the type of

living portrayed in the paintings possible. Without Hausmanns Renovations Paris would have

been a completely different type of city and there may not have been the same kind of culture

and there may have been works of art that focused on a completely different culture.


The Hausmann renovations or Hausmannisation of Paris was a work commissioned by Napoleon III, led by Baron Georges Eugene Hausmann. It was between 1852 and 1870, although it had began during the Reign of Napoleon in the Second Republic , it continued into the Third Republic. The project encompassed all aspects of urban planning both in the centre of Paris and in the surrounding areas. Hausmann destroyed most of the old medieval parts of the city to make way for long boulevards, large open areas and parks open to the public. There was a strong theme running through the facades of most of the buildings, they were all built to look quite similar and they feature in many paintings of the time such as Gustav Cailletbot’s “Paris Streets, Rainy day” (1877)

Cailletbot's paris streets rainy day

This painting by Gustav Caillebot depicts a few of the bourgeoisie of the time, we can tell they are members of the upper class mainly due to their clothing, the style of which is obvious in most paintings of the time and includes the trademark of the upper class male-the top hat. The man shown in this picture would have been described as a ‘Flaneur’ of the time which has the simply means “stroller”, “lounger”, “saunterer” , one who walks the streets in order to experience it. The painting shows this “Flaneur” walking Hausmann’s newly-renovated boulevard and as the government would want it, feeling very good about himself. The main point of the Renovations was to make Paris seem new and vibrant but also to bring this feeling to the citizens of paris as they themselves belonged to and were a part of the city as much as the city belonged to them. In a word, smug.

Another artist who focused on the Bourgeouisie and the spectacle of Modernity would have been James Jacques Tissot particularly in the painting “Women of Paris” . The painting shows a normal bourgeouisie activity- the “Circus”. It shows an over the top, slightly eccentric trapeze artist, he is slightly poking fun at the idea of the circus performer as he is wearing a monocle and blatantly just sitting there, as much watching the crowd as they are him


In the crowd we see the men dressed in the fashionable dress of the day, the same as we have seen in the last painting by Caillebot. They seem to be finding more entertainment in conversing with each other and peering about the crowd. They do not seem to be paying any attention to the Spectacle of the circus and thus of Modernity happening in front of them. The women in the painting are some of Tissot’s typical “Parisiennes”, the fashionably dressed women of the day. Their fashionable dresses, even without the bourgeois setting of the painting, would show them quite plainly as part of the upper class of the period of the third Republic.

A lot of the time the spectacle of Modernity is a very leisure based subject. Another artist

besides Tissot who would have focused on this aspect of modernity as a leisure activity, albeit

in a different light and different style would have been the artist Toulouse Lautrec. Lautrec was

obsessed with dancers and the dance scene on the slope of mont-marte in the early days of the

third republic. His most celebrated works were mainly of glamourous dancers and once again

the bourgeois men in top hats enoying the spectacle. Such as in his lithiograph “Moulin Rouge-

La Goulue” (1891). This would have been a poster for the Moulin Rouge at the time, along with

this he was commissioned to do many posters for performances but also purely for certain

artists such as Aristide Bruant.


In “Moulin Rouge- La Goulue” we see the introduction of typography into Lautrec’s work. This lithograph poster would have been a very fresh and new advertising tool of the time. This poster heightens the idea of the spectacle as all those watching are without colour or even much form whereas the dancer in the middle of the scene is given detail and vibrancy. From the backround of the painting we can see, yet again, that this scene is taking place in a bourgeouis setting as the backround of the painting has been reduced down to merely a silhouette of black top hats. If we were in any doubt as to who would be in attendance, the character in the foreground of the painting makes the viewers very obvious with Lautrec’s stylised view of the upper class in a suit jacket and top hat. This stylised version would come to be fully realised in the early twentieth century Art Nouveau style. This we can see from painters such as Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.

Another painter to focus on the aspect of leisure in Modernity would have been Georges Seurat in “Bathers at Asnieres” (1884). The painting shows a group of young boys bathing in the Seine, at the Paris surburb of Asnieres. The colours


used in the painting are very soft and create a misty effect suggesting a relaxing sunny afternoon. We see in the backround imagery of industry which may suggest that these bathers are on a week-end break, away from the harsh reality of working life.

Suerat would have focused on more direct aspects of Modernity such as the gigantic phallic symbol at the heart of Paris, the Eiffel Tower as in his painting “Tour Eiffel” (1889) where he paints the newest and most obvious symbol of Paris in his own pointelist style. This image of Paris was one of the most painted symbols of Paris at the time, covered in a wide variety of different technique by a plethora of different artists.


For this essay I will also look at artists who captured the image of Modernity through photography. With the invention of photography there was a more direct way of capturing Modernity and images of modern life. One of the artists I will look at is Gyula Hallasz who also went by the pseudonym Brasssai which means “from brassai”, the town in which he was born. He published a book called “Paris la Nuit” (Paris at Night) in 1932. It was a collection of images of Paris at night and included images of streetlights in empty streets and showed modern technology such as motor cars and electric lights


Another artist who used photography to capture the essence of modern paris at this time would have been Eugene Atget. He was born outside the French city of bourdeaux, was orphaned at the age of 7 and was raised by his uncle. In the 1870’s after finishing he education Atget briefly became a sailor and cabin boy. After shipping on several voyages, Atget became an actor, more specifically a bit-boy for a second rate repertory company but without much success. He retained his bohemian affection for the working person and worried about the working person and the petty tradesperson and merchants threatened by Modernisation and the rise of Paris’s department stores. He was interested in showing old scenes of Paris such as in the photograph “Rue de Seine” (1924)


An photographer who would have focused on the leisure aspects of Modernity was Henry Carter Bresson in his image “Sunday on the Banks of the River Marne” (1938) is very similar to Georges Suerat ‘s “Bathers at Asnieres”.


Henry Carter

Bresson was considered to be the father of modern photo-journalism, an early adopter of 35mm. He helped to develop the street photography style influenced generations of photographers that have followed. Don’t type this. He came from a wealthy family and grew up in a bourgeois neighbourhood of Paris, his mother and father would have been part of the upper class society that so many artist caputered in their Modernist scenes. He also painted and sketched in his spare time.

The third republic lasted up until the Nazi invasion of France in 1940. By this time france had

fully established itself as one of the main powers of the world, as it was one of the most

modern city of the world. The idea of france as the modern, idyllic place was sent around the

world through its artwork. But it was still a very flawed system with many injustices. Through

these many injustices many great writers, artists and poets came out of Paris during this time

. From Impressionism to Cubism, France had put itself firmly in place as a city to be reconed

with in the art world. Paris was the mother of modern art, because of the developments in art

during the period of the third Republic it led the way for Modernism in the 50’s, 60’s and






December 10, 2008






Base Bar blow out.

December 9, 2008