On the Grands Boulevards, Paris
Jean-François Raffaëlli (1850-1924)

On the Grands Boulevards, Paris, Ca. 1890-1900.

Pastel and tempera on canvas laid down on panel., H. 0.47 m; W. 0.66 m

Signed lower left: J F RAFFAËLLI.

Provenance: Private collection, Switzerland.

A versatile artist of Italian origin, Raffaëlli studied under Jean-Léon Gérôme at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1871. From 1870 he participated at the Salon, and attracted the attention of the art critic Edmond Duranty and also of Edgar Degas, who invited him to take part in the Impressionist exhibitions of 1880 and 1881. His sensitivity drew him towards painting with a social character: he described realistically the Parisian suburbs and scenes of everyday life, such as the Boulevard de Banlieue (Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts) or Les Vieux convalescents (Paris, musée d’Orsay). He also created portraits of the intellectuals of his time, such as Edmond de Goncourt (Nancy, Musée des Beaux-Arts) or Georges Clemenceau (Versailles, Musée National du Château).

His scenes taken from Parisian life were very well received by the public and critics and in 1884, his first solo exhibition in his shop on the avenue de l’Opéra, established his fame definitively. Raffaëlli was admired by Emile Zola because of his social concerns, which were close to the naturalist novels of his time; he was also praised by J.-K. Huysmans in the newspaper L’Art Moderne: “He will occupy a unique place in the art of the century, that of a kind of Parisian Millet”. Raffaëlli also exhibited its works in Belgium at the Cercle des XX and the Salons Triennaux, as well as in Boston, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia during its trips there in 1895 and 1899.

After 1890, the artist’s attention moved away from the suburbs of Paris to concentrate on the description of the city itself. Strongly influenced by the Impressionists, he became a veritable historian of the everyday life of the capital in the 1900s: he painted the Place de la Madeleine, the Pont Alexandre III, Notre-Dame cathedral and the lively quays of the river Seine, as is here the case.

Beyond the qualities of a landscape painter, here it is Parisian everyday life which has been captured: in the foreground, a horse pulling a carriage draws the viewer into the scene, further we see a street sweeper, a mother and her child walking… So many anecdotal figures, witnesses to the city’s excitement, which the artist liked to paint from life, settled in his hackney converted into a studio.

On the Grands Boulevards, ParisThis painting was authenticated by the Galerie Brame & Laurenceau on 14 October 2014 and will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Jean-François Raffaëlli currently being prepared.