As the ‘bright young things’ sat in cafes talking, they watched their city physically changing before their eyes. Paris was being turned from a mediaeval maze, in to a state of the art city. Broad light and airy boulevards we are replacing the old dark dank and squalid Streets.
It was a visionary piece of urban regeneration led by a can-do bureaucrat called Baron Haussmann, who had been commissioned by Napoleon III.
The Emperor of the French shared some of the military nouse of his uncle and could see that Paris’s make-over would not only provide a sophisticated response to London’s regency splendour, but also give him a fighting chance of staying in power.
And while it was all change in the city, so innovation was impacting on the technical side of painting. Until the 1840’s artists using oil paint were mainly limited to working in their studios as there was no easily portable container for their colours. Then the idea of putting oil paint into small colour-coded cubes was introduced, which gave the more intrepid painter the opportunity to paint directly onto canvas outside on location.
The compulsion to do so was heightened by the advent of photography, a new medium in which many young up-and-coming artists had taken an interest.
Of course, in some respects, this exciting cheap accessible image producer posed a threat to some artists who had previously had an unrivalled position as picture creator for the rich and powerful.
Much thanks to Will Gompertz’s book What Are You Looking At….some of the blog is directly taken from this fantastic book.