A City Transformed: Photographs of Paris, 1850–1900

A City Transformed: Photographs of Paris, 1850–1900


Paris transformed into the “City of Light” through grand-scale architectural renovations, demolitions, and new construction set in motion during the Second Empire (1852–70). With absolute power, Emperor Napoleon III remapped the French capital from the ground up, appointing civil servant Georges-Eugène Haussmann to redesign Paris toward improved safety, public health and sanitation, and traffic circulation. A self-described artiste démolisseur (demolition artist), Haussmann razed densely settled areas of the medieval city center, its labyrinthine streets rapidly giving way to new axes of orderly, wide boulevards anchored by monuments and open spaces for recreation. During this unprecedented intervention into public space, specially commissioned photographers worked alongside architects, engineers, masons, and sculptors, recording the building projects in progress.

This exhibition explores the documentary nature of photography during this transformative “age under construction,” a half-century in which photographers created a visual archive of Paris—from the heights of cathedral spires and imposing historic monuments, to the boulevard and the depths of the catacombs. The works on view demonstrate the technical exactitude and artistic flowering of many of the period’s leading architectural photographers, including Édouard Baldus and Charles Marville, who provided government officials with minutely detailed, large-format photographs chronicling the embellishment of Paris. Serving as practical reference tools intended to preserve memory of the city’s architectural heritage and direct future restoration efforts, many of these images were also exhibited in a series of spectacular World’s Fairs held in Paris, where the city celebrated itself as a model for urban development.

A City Transformed includes eighteen works on loan from The Troob Family Foundation, which concentrates on nineteenth- and early twentieth-century photography. Two photographs of decorative ironwork by Eugène Atget are on loan from Michael Lynch and Susan Baker.

A City Transformed
Photographs of Paris, 1850–1900
July 1 – September 23, 2018

Clark Art Institute
225 South St Williamstown, MA 01267
www.clarkart.edu

Félix Thiollier, French, 1842–1914, Universal Exhibition, Paris 1900

Félix Thiollier, French, 1842–1914, Universal Exhibition, Paris 1900

Charles Marville French, 1816–1879 Arc de Triomphe, from the album Photographic Paris c. 1852

Charles Marville, French, 1816–1879, Arc de Triomphe, from the album Photographic Paris, c. 1852

Charles Marville French, 1816–1879 Rue des Sept-Voies, from rue Saint-Hilaire 1865–69

Charles Marville, French, 1816–1879, Rue des Sept-Voies, from rue Saint-Hilaire, 1865–69

Eugène Atget French, 1857–1927 Corner of rue de Seine and rue de l’Échaudé c. 1919

Eugène Atget, French, 1857–1927, Corner of rue de Seine and rue de l’Échaudé, c. 1919

Delmaet & Durandelle French photography studio, ca. 1862–1890 Men on the Dome, from The New Paris Opéra c. 1869

Delmaet & Durandelle, French photography studio, ca. 1862–1890, Men on the Dome, from The New Paris Opéra, c. 1869


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