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On the Boulevards...

Balzac describes their history and physiology, Maupassant's Bel-ami walks around in search of pleasure. From the Capucines to the Italians and the Café Riche, Renée and Maxime roam them in a horse-drawn carriage in the Curée of Zola. The Grands Boulevards are the privileged place of relaxation for Parisians of all conditions. The white collars rub shoulders with the working classes in a permanent staging where identities are blurred and the public space is theatricalized.

Monet, Pissarro, Béraud painted them, in this second part of the 19th century when they abounded with theatres, restaurants, cafés, by the light of gaslights lit in Paris by 1,500 lantern lighters.

This painting by Abel Truchet (1857-1918) illustrates our Parisian boulevards in this article.

Abel Truchet. Sur les boulevards. 1895. Musée Carnavalet, don de Madame Seligmann.
Abel Truchet. Sur les boulevards. 1895. Musée Carnavalet, don de Madame Seligmann.

A pupil of Benjamin Constant and Jules Lefebvre at the Julian Academy in Paris, Abel Truchet painted many scenes of Parisian life, as well as landscapes and posters.

In 1907, he founded the society of comedians with Louis Vallée.

During the First World War, he directed the central workshop of the camouflage section of the army. Wounded shortly before the end of hostilities, he died in Auxerre on September 9, 1918.

In this 1895 canvas exhibited at the Carnavalet Museum in Paris, an elegant woman is seated from behind while a young boy offers her flowers under the gaze of a bourgeois with a salt-and-pepper beard. On the left, a pot-bellied waiter appears to be taking an order. All the attitudes are fixed with the exception of the young woman who hurries to the right, carrying a large box of hats. In the back, a cab awaits the customer and a double-decker omnibus arrives at high speed. The quadrilateral formed by the four main characters, none of whom are looking at the other, leaves an impression of almost indifferent coexistence which contrasts with the background of rustling traffic. The void left by Truchet on the right seems to invite the viewer to enter the painting and, why not, to contemplate the bicycle which seems to be standing on its own behind the tree protected by its gate.

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