This report seeks to explore and compare the contemporary social critiques with the modernist myth surrounding the city of Paris in the late 19th century. The sharp contrast of interpretation on both sides is exemplified through three major artworks, Le Train dans la Neige, la Locamotive by Claude Monet, Dans un Café Dit Aussi, L’Absinthe by Edgar Degas, and Bal du Moulin de la Galette by Pierre Auguste Renoir. Each painting exudes deeper meaning by way of brush stroke, color, style, composition, content, symbolism, and so much more beyond the painted surface seen at first glance. Together, the three paintings display social views from different perspectives developed from “Haussmannization” (Clark, 24), a period in which the city of Paris was renovated and revamped to make way for a new spectacular Paris with wider boulevards and picturesque buildings. The results produced an breathtakingly beautiful and clean city, which of course had to be cause for celebration, as many artists chose to depict it. At the same time, Haussmannization was a double edged sword in that despite the good it did for the city, it also caused much poverty by driving the working class out of their homes, from either demolishment or raised prices, and away from the city (Clark, 23). Modernist artists of the 1860s-1890s, were inspired by these social scenes and radical outlooks on the changing city. Through a technical analysis followed by a content based evaluation, the three selected works will reveal depictions of landscapes or individual people, through themes of celebration or the powerful, disheartening effects upon the working class, to ultimately create a dynamic assortment to the understanding of social critiques and myths of modernity in 19th century Paris.
A prime example of the celebration of “the new Paris” can be seen through Auguste Renoir’s Bal du Moulin de la Galette of 1876. Overflowing with color and light on the faces of smiling middle class workers this painting...
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