European Art: 19th Century

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The Seine at Charenton (formerly Daybreak), 1874

Jean-Baptiste Armand Guillaumin

French, 1841-1927
Oil on canvas
21-1/4 x 25-3/8 in. (53.3 x 63.5 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
M.1968.16.2.P
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

In this view of a Parisian suburb, factories belch smoke into the bright sky; creamily applied paint invites us to compare black clouds and white. The picture is dated to May 1874, just after the opening of the first Impressionist exhibition, where Guillaumin showed three works. He was among the most radical members of the group, both aesthetically and politically. Desperately poor, he eked out a living on the outskirts of the capital, working as a ditch digger and day laborer, barely able to afford materials or time to paint. As a result, his body of work from the 1870s and 1880s is unusually small but provides a unique perspective on modern Paris, depicting not its glamorous center but its rough industrial suburbs.

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