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Renoir, Monet, the Seine and the Pont-Neuf...

In my lecture on 19th century Paris and its painters, I naturally speak of the Seine, and in particular through two paintings on which the Pont-Neuf appears.

One of the young Claude Monet, made in 1867, and the other of Auguste Renoir, painted 5 years later. The Seine is the beat of Parisian life. An inexhaustible source of inspiration for painters, she traces its meanders through the beautiful neighborhoods before meeting the working world that is busy on its banks.

Paul Augustin Gueuvin. The Quai du Louvre, the Seine and the Pont-Neuf around 1880. Carnavalet Museum. Paris.
Paul augustin Gueuvin. Le quai du Louvre et le Pont-Neuf vers 1880.Musée Carnavalet. Paris.

On her quays lovers kiss, on its quays, workers, unloaders, are struggling. Her bridges, once covered with houses, connected the right bank and the left bank, sometimes passing through the united islands. Here, the Pont Neuf and on the right, near the grove of trees, the Vert Galant statue. Right in front of our eyes the covered baths, installed on the river. On the right, the cold baths (!) reserved for ladies...

Claude Monet. The quay of the Louvre. 1867. The Hague Art Museum. You can naturally see the Seine and the Pont-Neuf
Claude Monet. Le quai du Louvre. 1867. Musée d'Art de la Haye

It was Claude Monet who launched hostilities in 1867, from practically the same point of view. We observe the quays, the Seine, the bridge and its statue of Henri IV. The baths were not yet built.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The Pont-Neuf. 1872. National Gallery of Art Washington. You can see the Seine and the statue of Vert-Galant
Pierre Auguste Renoir. Le Pont-Neuf. 1872. National Gallery of Art Washington

Auguste Renoir painted this same bridge in 1872. Brilliant colors, midday sun light, fine weather cumulus, everything is done with audacity, without hesitation. Painting frees itself from drawing and Renoir employs without scruple shades of raw blue from the floor of a small café located opposite the bridge.

In his art history lectures, Fabrice Roy combines the past with the present, in a poetic and playful evocation of the French 19th century...


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