(1840 - 1926) | 909.1.34
Date : Circa 1878 | Medium : Oil on canvas
The subject of this painting is the first official national celebration to take place following the defeat of Napoleon III in 1870, when the conservatives regained power. The festivities marked the 1878 Universal Exhibition and also heralded the advent of the French Third Republic, established several months later. Social commentators of the day remarked on the enthusiasm evident on this Sunday 30th June when the tricolour dominated the streets of Paris. According to the Goncourt brothers, even hearses carrying the deceased to the cemetery were decked out with the national flag.
The street, flooded with jubilant Parisians, is depicted from high above with a strong sense of perspective: the dark triangle of the crowds extends up towards the inverted triangle of the sky. Rendered with rapid brushstrokes, in flashes of pure colour, the fluttering, flapping, twisting flags dominate the space. In this weightless, shifting atmosphere, a banner conceals a ‘VIVE LA FRANCE’ (Long Live France) and a flag shows a partial ‘VIVE LA REP[ublique]’ (Long Live the Republic). The painting brings to mind the words of a critic of the Impressionists in 1876: ‘They take canvases, colours and brushes, lay on a few indiscriminate tones and then risk everything.’ The success of the work matched that of the celebration. Described as ‘muscial,’ it was purchased on 1st August by the composer Emmanuel Chabrier, to be acquired after his death (in 1896) by François Depeaux, who donated his Impressionist collection to the Musée de Rouen