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Rue Saint-Jacques once was a major passage in the Quartier Latin of old Paris before it was turned into a backstreet with the creation of the Boulevard Saint-Germain as part of Haussmann’s regeneration scheme of the capital. It was the starting point for pilgrims to make their way along the Chemin de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle that led eventually to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia where the remains of the apostle Saint James are supposed to be buried. The Paris base of the Dominican Order was established in 1218 in the Chapelle Saint-Jacques. However, it was not for religion or piety that the street won its reputation, but for the crucial role it played in the history of French printing.

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In 1466, German-born Johann Heynlin obtained a doctorate in theology at the Sorbonne. Three years later he was elected Rector of the university and became Professor of Theology. He established of the first printing-press in France in cooperation with Guillaume Fichet who also taught at the Sorbonne. Around 1469/70, Heynlin hired three Swiss printers, Ulrich Gering, Michael Friburger and Martin Crantz, to install and run this press in the buildings of the university. He also gave financial aid to their undertakings, especially for the printing of the works of the Church Fathers. Their first publication with this press – the first book printed in France – was a collection of letters (Epistolae Gasparini) by the fifteenth century grammarian Gasparinus de Bergamo. The book dates from 1470. During the following two years over twenty works appeared from the press, including Fichet’s own Rhetorica. By the end of 1472 the venture came to an end and the three printers left the Sorbonne to set up on their own at the sign of the Soleil d’Or on the Rue Saint Jacques, thus starting a long tradition of printing in the street (the proximity of the Sorbonne attracted many later booksellers and printers).

ImageThe Rue Saint-Jacques has been associated with a number of new printing techniques that were introduced over the ages. Jacques Chéreau was a portrait engraver and publisher of ‘optical prints’ at the Rue Saint-Jacques. From about 1740 to about 1820 such prints were made to be viewed through a so-called zograscope. This was an optical device for enhancing the sense of depth perception from a flat picture. The machine consists of a large magnifying lens through which the picture is viewed. Some models have the lens mounted on a stand in front of an angled mirror allowing a person to sit and look through the lens at the picture flat on the table. Pictures viewed in this way need to be left-right reversed. They are called ‘vues perspectives’.

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The origin of the term zograscope has been lost, but it is also known as a diagonal mirror or as an optical pillar machine. Machines of that kind were popular during the Georgian era as parlour entertainments. They were produced for the luxury market as fine pieces of furniture, with turned stands, mouldings, and brass fittings. Intaglio optical prints have deliberately exaggerated converging lines and bright colours which contribute to the illusion of depth. Jacques Chéreau and his brother were amongst the most prolific publishers and producers of such prints in Paris. Typical subjects include current events, views of the known world, fantasy compositions, and cityscapes. Chéreau himself for example, around 1750, produced a coloured print ‘Vue de la ville et du pont de Francfort’ which shows the city’s Medieval bridge over the river Main.

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Auguste Delâtre was an artist’s printer who pioneered the ‘mobile etching’ technique, a method of painting ink on to the plate so that up to forty unique impressions could be made from the same plate, rather than a uniformly wiped edition. This influenced the practice of monotype amongst artists such as Ludovic Lepic and Edgar Degas. He built up a considerable reputation amongst artists and it was to him that the majority of progressive etchers turned. One of those artists was Whistler. In 1855, the latter asked the printer to produce a number of sets of his ‘Douze eaux-fortes d’après nature’. Twenty were printed at Delâtre’s shop at no. 171 Rue St Jacques, and a further fifty sets were printed later in London.

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Delâtre was also involved in the printing of Whistler’s ‘Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames and Other Subjects’ in 1861. In return Whistler etched his portrait. In 1862 Delâtre helped to found the Société des Aquafortistes in Paris. In the disastrous Prussian siege of Paris in 1870 his studio was destroyed, as were his works and equipment. He fled to London, where he met up with other expatriate French artists such as James Tissot and Jules Dalou. He returned to Paris in 1876 and set up a new studio in Montmartre.

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Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard was a French cloth merchant who, in the 1840s, became a student of photography. In 1850, he introduced the albumen paper printing technique and started the Imprimerie Photographique in Lille a year later. It was the first commercially viable method of producing a print on a paper base from a negative. It used the albumen found in egg whites to bind the photographic chemicals to the paper and remained the dominant form of photographic positives from 1855 to the turn of the twentieth century.

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The process produced some stunning images, including those of Jane Morris (née Burden), wife of William Morris, who was an embroiderer and model. She worked with her husband in their furnishings business. In the late 1860s, Jane began a romantic liaison with Rossetti that lasted until 1876. She was the model for some of his most famous paintings, and her striking appearance provided him with inspiration for over twenty years. Emery Walker produced with an iconic image with his albumen print of Jane Morris seated, leaning forward with her face towards the viewer and her left hand leaning on her face.

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There are, furthermore, a number of albumen images of the Rue Saint-Jacques. There is, for example, Charles Marville’s 1865/9 print of the ‘Rue Saint-Jacques’. This photograph depicts an intersection near the Sorbonne University. Marville was hired by the government to record the old city before modernization. Made for documentary purposes, this delightful image captures the street’s architectural character and shows the light flooding through the narrow passageway and lingers on the contrast between the bold lettering of advertisements and the peeling walls that threaten to absorb them.

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Eugène Atget was equally passionate in preserving memories of old Paris and a one-man archive. Between 1897 and 1927, he made roughly 10,000 negatives from which he produced and sold some 25,000 prints to individuals and institutions. His photographs show Paris in its various facets: narrow lanes, historic courtyards and pre-Revolution palaces under threat of demolition, bridges and quays on the banks of the Seine, and shops with their window displays. Whilst Impressionist painters recorded the transformation of the city with its new boulevards and stations in bright colours, photographers hurried to capture the last remnants and muted tones of the Medieval town.


Bristol Street in Birmingham is a commercial road that is nowadays dominated by supermarkets and car dealers. There is little or nothing to relate this street to the history of art or literature – with the exception of W.H. Auden. In the first two stanzas of his 1937 poem ‘As I Walked Out One Evening’ the poet leads his reader through Bristol Street to a railway arch by the river (this concerns the River Rea which is confined in a deep brick-lined channel through most of its passage across central Birmingham).

As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.
And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
Love has no ending.


The introduction of such ‘unpoetical’ urban scenes is typical for Auden as a poet, but it has also a background in Birmingham’s flourishing cultural tradition. Since the eighteenth century Birmingham developed a distinctive culture of art and design, dominated by the historic importance of the applied art to the city’s manufacturing economy. While industrial towns such as Manchester and Bradford were based on the manufacture of bulk commodities (cotton and wool), Birmingham’s economy was built on the production of finished manufactured goods for European markets. Good design was essential in a competitive market and this resulted in the growth of an extensive infrastructure for artistic education. Birmingham initiated the increasingly important role of the visual arts within industrial society. The city stood at the centre of the Arts and Craft movement.

During the 1930s it could boast a lively artistic and literary scene represented by poets Auden, MacNeice and Henry Reed; novelist Henry Green; sculptor Gordon Herickx; and the Surrealist painters. The existence of a distinctive Birmingham group of Surrealist artists dates from the meeting of Conroy Maddox and John Melville in 1935, after an exchange of letters in the Birmingham Post about the reactionary and conventional art scene in the city represented by the Birmingham School of Art and the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, where the Arts and Crafts ideals were held in favour of more radical artistic movements.

As late as 1938, John Melville had six of his paintings banned from an exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery as being detrimental to ‘public sensibility’. His brother Robert, an outstanding art critic, was instrumental in introducing Picasso to the English public. He was one of the first to recognize the talent of Francis Bacon. The so-called Birmingham Group was a group of authors writing from the 1930s to the 1950s. Members included John Hampson, Walter Allen, Leslie Halward, and others. For a while the group met weekly in a pub off Corporation Street. The group showed little stylistic unity but shared a common interest in the realistic portrayal of working class scenes.

W.H. Auden continued the link between creativity and the industrial urban scene. Born in York in 1907, Auden was only eighteen months old when the family moved to Birmingham. To the youngster, the Solihull gasworks were an awe-inspiring sight. This unconventional poetic attitude is based on early personal experiences, awareness of the local cultural tradition, and knowledge of developments in modernist poetry on the Continent where the ‘might of the machine’ had impressed many of the younger generation. By contrast with older and even with the artificiality of some modernist poets, one listens to a voice here that is fully at home in the industrial landscape of the modern city. In ‘Letter to Lord Byron’ (1936) Auden states unequivocally:

Tramlines and slagheaps, pieces of machinery,
That was, and still is, my ideal scenery.

The image leads on to the folling fine lines:

But give me still, to stir imagination
The chiaroscuro of the railway station.

As an individual Auden apparently possessed little mechanical aptitude, but the poet in him was stirred by the symbolism of place-names and the industrial plant and processes associated with them. Later, at Oxford, his favourite sights were the gasworks and the municipal dump.

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Rue Lepic is an ancient winding road in Montmartre, climbing the steep hill from the Boulevard de Clichy to the Place Jean-Baptiste-Clément. Having been given various names previously, in 1864 the street was renamed after General Louis Lepic, a hero of the Napoleonic Wars (and of the Polish Campaign in particular). The street is famous for its steep hill. Louis Renault built his first car in 1898, calling his car the ‘Voiturette’. On 24 December 1898, he won a bet with his friends that his invention was capable of driving up the slope of Rue Lepic. As well as winning the bet, Renault received twelve orders for the vehicle.

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From 1886 to 1888, Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo lived on the third floor of the property at no. 54. In the spring of 1887 he painted an image of Paris as seen from his room in the Rue Lepic. It was during this period that Vincent changed his painting style from the dark Belgo-Dutch browns and blacks to bright impressionist colours.

For much of his live novelist Louis-Ferdinand Céline lived for much of his life at no. 98 Rue Lepic, opposite the Moulin de la Galette. He mentions the street in several of his novels.

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Yves Montand dedicated to this road his charming song ‘Rue Lepic’ which features on the 1974 album Yves Montand. It ends with the lines:

Et la rue
Monte, monte toujours
Vers Montmartre, là-haut,
Vers ses moulins si beaux
Ses moulins tout là-haut
Rue Lepic.

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Since the Middle Ages there have been windmills on the hill of Montmartre and in the seventeenth century there were at least thirty. The mills were used to grind the corn grown on the plain of Saint Denis, north of Montmartre (now the location of the Stade de France). At the time of Claude Renoir’s death in 1919 nearly all the windmills had disappeared as Paris expanded and the old cornfields were sold off as building plots. The few remaining mills were turned into cabarets and restaurants. Its more recent past saw Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Amedeo Modigliani, Piet Mondrian and others calling Montmartre their home. Around the same time the Basilica of the Sacré Coeur rose from its highest point, memorializing losses suffered during the 1871 Franco-Prussian war and the end of the Paris Commune. This white basilica has dominated the Parisian skyline since 1914. It was dedicated to the 58,000 who lost their lives in the conflict.

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For many Parisians a trip to Montmartre was an escape, a place to have fun out of sight of relations and enquiring neighbours. The main attraction was the Moulin de Galette, a windmill situated near the top of Montmartre. The name is based on a popular brown bread or galette that was produced by the nineteenth century miller family of Debray. Initially it was sold with a glass of milk. As the nearby fields were replaced with housing and factories, Nicholas Charles Debray sought commercial opportunities to remain in business. One of the mills was turned into a viewing tower and a dance hall was opened adjacently. People came to the Moulin for entertainment and dancing. It became an outlet for Parisian pleasure-seekers to enjoy a glass of local wine (rather than milk), freshly baked bread and a terrace view of city and Seine below. A number of artists have immortalized the Moulin de la Galette.

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The earliest and most notable image was was Renoir’s atmospheric 1876 oil on canvas painting ‘Bal du Moulin de la Galette’, one of the masterpieces of early Impressionism. This painting is his most important work of the mid 1870s and was shown at the Impressionist exhibition in 1877. Though some of his friends appear in the picture, Renoir’s main aim was to convey the vivacious Sunday afternoon atmosphere of the dance garden on the Butte Montmartre. This snapshot of the moving crowd, bathed in natural and artificial light, is depicted with brightly coloured and fluid brushstrokes.

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Van Gogh completed his version of the Moulin in 1886 whilst living in the Rue Lepic. Painting outdoors encouraged him to explore the effects of natural light and the result is a luminous palette that departs from his usual sombre tones. Toulouse-Lautrec painted the Moulin de la Galette in 1889, thirteen years after Renoir, but he adopted the same angle of people sitting at tables enjoying the music and dancing in the background. He however uses darker colours and does not focus on the faces of the people, whereas Renoir painted almost every figure looking directly at the viewer. Renoir’s work seems more staged. It seems as if the company of revellers is posing for a photographer.

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Picasso created his image of the mill in 1900. His depiction of lamps burning in darkness and women wearing lipstick and striking outfits portray a different ambience than Renoir’s. But in his case too, the painting resembles a stage performance. Looking towards the viewer, his figures pose as if they are keen to give their identity away. One year earlier, Dutch painter Kees van Dongen had settled in Paris and became a resident of the Bateau-Lavoir in Montmartre.

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In the early years of the century the poet Max Jacob had the name Bateau-Lavoir to a conglomeration of artists’ studios in Montmartre, at the top of the steps leading to no. 13 Rue Ravignan. They were situated in a shaded square which later took the name of the singer Émile Goudeau. It was a gloomy heap of dark and dirty premises made of beams and planks. On stormy days they swayed and creaked so dangerously on their uncertain foundations that they reminded one of the washing-boats on the Seine – hence the name. Between 1904 and 1914 an extraordinary number of outstanding artists, poets and authors settled here.

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The list of occupiers of the building is like a comprehensive index of modernist artists in the years preceding World War I, extending from Picasso, Braque, Modigliani, to Apollinaire, Jarry, and Cocteau. It was in this milieu that Picasso first discussed Cubism. Picasso’s studio was next to Van Dongen, and the two became close friends. Van Dongen painted ‘Le Moulin de la Galette’ in 1904. He participated in the controversial 1905 exhibition Salon d’Automne, in a room featuring Henri Matisse amongst others. The bright colours of this group of artists led to them being called Fauves (‘Wild Beasts’).

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Charing Cross denotes the junction of Strand, Whitehall and Cockspur Street, just south of Trafalgar Square. It is named after the Eleanor Cross that once stood in the hamlet of Charing. In 1290, Eleanor of Castile, the wife of Edward I had died at Harby in Nottinghamshire. The places where her body rested on the journey south to its tomb in Westminster Abbey were each marked by stone crosses. The site of the Charing cross is now occupied by an equestrian statue of Charles I.

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There are countless paintings and drawings of Charing Cross and its famous bridge. The view produced by one artist, however, has become iconic. When Claude Monet visited London in 1870 he became intrigued by the metropolis. Capturing its muted colours and moisture-laden atmosphere became a challenge he was not ready to risk as yet. His desire to paint these distinctive effects of light and tonal nuance was rekindled three decades later when he travelled to London later to visit his son Michel in the autumn of 1899. The sight of the city’s buildings looming in the fog inspired him to return the following year. He painted boats on the Thames from a position on the Charing Cross Bridge as well as the massive silhouette of the Houses of Parliament in every conceivable weather condition. He struggled to capture what he saw, working on as many as fifteen canvases at a time. Monet painted his ‘Charing Cross Bridge’ in 1900. This view of the bridge, with its misty atmosphere and the merest suggestion of shapes for the boats on the water, recalls earlier and pioneering work. His ‘Waterloo Bridge’, painted in the same year, is an evocative portrayal of London’s infamous overcast climate in which the artist restricted his palette to a range of blues, modulated with yellow into green, in a dramatic expression of obscured light.

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In his letters from London, Monet often complained about the English weather. The fog, the rain, and the damp all threatened to impede his progress, and he often worked in his hotel room, looking out the window. But the volatility of the weather also inspired him. He set out to capture every type of weather in paint, including his 1903 work ‘Pont de Waterloo, Jour Gris’. His 1903 foggy image of ‘Les maisons de Parliament’ was part of a series that had to be completed from memory rather than observation. Illness had cut short this, his third London campaign. In 1900, Claude Monet pushed himself to the point of collapse, and, in the following year, a severe bout of pleurisy forced him to cut his work short and return to Giverny. It was during this spell of physical recovery that he started his famous series (nearly 100 canvases) of water lilies floating in his pond.

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Maintaining this Continental focus, Charing Cross appears in a significant manner in Ford Madox Ford’s modernist war poem ‘Antwerp’ (published in January 1915). Previously, just before entering World War I where he served as a Lieutenant until he was sent home following shell shock at the battle of the Somme, Ford had published his novel The Good Soldier. His Antwerp poem was inspired by the blackness of his experiences during the war. It was considered by T.S. Eliot to be the only good poem he knew on the subject of war. Ford, weary of English life, eventually settled in France where he founded The Transatlantic Review. He made Ernest Hemingway assistant editor, and they published authors such as Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, and Jean Rhys. Between the years 1924 and 1928, he published his four-volume novel, Parade’s End. The poet published ‘Antwerp’ under his real name of Ford Madox Hueffer. Son of a German journalist and music critic, he anglicized his name to Ford Madox Ford only after the war at the behest of his publisher.

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An early episode in the war was the siege of Antwerp in the north of Belgium by the German Army. Ford’s poem deals with the desperation of Belgian resistance against the German invasion. It opens with these powerful lines:

Gloom!
An October like November;
August a hundred thousand hours,
And all September,
A hundred thousand, dragging sunlit days,
And half October like a thousand years …
And doom!
That then was Antwerp …

To describe Belgian heroism, Ford uses parallels with the heroes of Greek or Norse legend. The final verses of the poem move the reader from occupied Antwerp to Charing Cross and the nightmare spectacle of Belgian refugees. In September 1914 the British government had offered ‘victims of war the hospitality of the British nation’, accepting the responsibility for the reception, maintenance and registration of Belgian refugees, while at the same time sought out assistance in housing the refugees with local authorities. British Naval Brigades were sent to Antwerp to the relief and evacuation of the city. It meant the beginning of an influx of refugees from Belgium. Charing Cross was the station where these refugees arrived in large numbers, frightened women, childrenand elederly people in desperate circumstances carrying their tiny bundles belongings done up in handkerchiefs. Ford paints a painful picture of the conditions awaiting those who had fled their home and country:

This is Charing Cross;
It is one o’clock.
There is still a great cloud, and very little light;
Immense shafts of shadows over the black crowd
That hardly whispers aloud….
And now!… That is another dead mother,
And there is another and another and another….
And little children, all in black,
All with dead faces, waiting in all the waiting-places,
Wandering from the doors of the waiting-room
In the dim gloom.
These are the women of Flanders:

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There is another strong reminder of the unfortunate role Charing Cross played during World War I. John Hodgson Lobley was official war artist to the Royal Army Medical Corps. Nowadays we send photographers to the front. During the Great War artists were commissioned to leave their impressions to posterity. In his capacity as war artist Lobley created 120 paintings, many of which are owned by London’s Imperial War Museum. These include scenes of rehabilitation in Queens Hospital for Facial Injuries in Sidcup (opened in 1917 thanks to the initiative of otolaryngologist Harold Gillies: more than 11,000 operations were performed on over 5,000 soldiers with facial injuries from gunshot wounds) ; of the Royal Army Medical Corps in training; and of casualty clearing stations near battlefields in France, including Douai. Probably the most famous of Lobley’s images is the 1918 oil on canvas painting entitled ‘Outside Charing Cross Station, July 1916: Casualties from the Battle of the Somme Arriving in London’.

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The Boulevard des Italiens is one of the four grand avenues in Paris (the others are Boulevard de la Madeleine, Boulevard des Capucines and Boulevard Montmartre). Originally the term boulevard referred to a bulwark or rampart of a fortified town; hence, a street occupying the site of demolished fortifications. The word was derived from the Middle Dutch bolwerk (bulwark or bastion). The name points the Théâtre des Italiens which was built there in 1783, shortly before the French Revolution (now replaced by the Opéra-Comique). Under the second Bourbon Restoration it was known as the Boulevard de Gand in memory of Louis XVIII’s exile in Ghent during the Hundred Days War. Throughout the nineteenth century and up to World War I the boulevard was a meeting place for the elegant elite of Paris.

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The streets of Paris underwent remarkable changes in the 1820s. The existing cobblestones were covered with bitumen pavements to make them more pleasant to walk and easier to maintain, and to prevent rebels from using the cobblestones to make blockades. In addition, gas lights were installed which created a new and exciting atmosphere, that of ‘la ville lumière’ in the making. They lined the streets, illuminating them throughout the night. Cafés and restaurants were brightly lit. Their large plate-glass windows seem to open up the inner city. The terraces were full of relaxed clients watching the world go by. The light of the gas lamps enabled them to socialize late at night. In 1842, such an image was captured by Eugène Lami in his painting ‘Le Boulevard des Italiens, la nuit, à l’angle de la Rue Lafitte’. Showing the intersection of the Boulevard des Italiens and the Rue Lafitte, it depicts affluent Parisians out on the streets during the evening. Not long afterwards Lami’s popular view was made into a colour litho by E. Radclyffe. Many artists were inspired by the lively atmosphere of the Boulevard. In 1880, Gustave Caillebotte created an ‘aerial’ view of ‘Le Boulevard des Italiens’.

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Édouard Léon Cortès, a French post-impressionist artist of French and Spanish ancestry, was known as ‘Le Poète Parisien de la Peinture’ because of his beautiful cityscapes in a variety of weather and night settings. His first exhibition in 1901 brought him immediate recognition. He depicted the Boulevard des Italiens in a number of atmospheric paintings. In 1897, Camille Pissarro painted the Boulevard in the morning sunlight and called the work ‘Boulevard des Italiens, matin, soleil’. The painting was acquired by Chester Dale who, upon his death in 1962, bequeathed the core of his impressive French art collection to the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

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After the July Revolution of 1850 the cityscape of Paris began to express its bourgeois prosperity in which the young played a leading role. The archetypal denizen of the modern boulevard was a flâneur, a man (always, a man) of sophistication and elegance who scanned the activity around him with detachment. Baudelaire cast the artist in the role of flâneur, a detective who could decipher the codes of a new urban experience. The boulevards were filled with aristocrats, diplomats, artists, and dandies, who gathered in fashionable establishments such as the Café de Paris, the Café Anglais, Maison Dorée, and above all at Tortoni’s. Founded in 1798 by a Neapolitan immigrant named Velloni as a café-pâtisserie and extended by Giuseppe Tortoni, the Café Tortoni became the establishment where the elite of Parisian society would meet in the nineteenth century. In the morning, stockbrokers breakfasted there; late in the afternoon, artists sipped absinthe; and at night tout le monde went to Tortoni’s for his famous ice creams. Some of its artistically refined clients soon came to be referred to as ‘dandies’ or more locally as ‘tortonistes’. Composer Offenbach, poet Alfred de Musset, novelists Alexandre Dumas and Eugène Sue, the Goncourt Brothers, Lord Henry Seymour, and Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly, author of Du dandysme et de George Brummell, were all regular visitors to the café. Balzac often mentions Tortoni in his novels; the café is described by Alfred de Musset; the famous billiard room on the second floor appears in Stendhal’s Le rouge et le noir; and Proust points on several occasions to Tortoni’s in À la recherché du temps terdu. Sénécal, in Flaubert’s L’éducation sentimentale (1869), kills Dussardier on the steps of Café Tortoni.

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There are several depictions of the café, all confirming its reputation as a fashionable establishment. In his from his 1856 series of lithographs entitled Physionomies de Paris Eugène Charles François Guérard, an artist of whom few biographical details are known, shows an image of ‘Le Boulevard des Italiens, devant Tortoni à quatre heures du soir’. The scene is outside the café, where patrons crowd the sidewalk. Men, all in top hats and frock coats dominate the mass of people. An image of the café itself was provided in an oil painting by Jean Béraud, another artist who specialized in the depiction of daily Parisian life, which he titled ‘Le Boulevard devant le Café Tortoni’. Édouard Manet felt particularly at home in this café where he frequently lunched. He was more a dandy than a bohemian. His top hat and waistcoat blended in splendidly with the patrons of Tortoni’s. In 1878/80 he created a painting of a jaunty gentleman in a top hat in the act of writing (a letter or a novel?) which he gave the title of ‘Chez Tortoni’.
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The origin of the word dandy is uncertain. Eccentricity, defined as taking characteristics such as dress and appearance to extremes, began to be applied in the 1770s. Similarly, the word dandy first appears in the late eighteenth century. A dandy is a man who places particular importance upon physical appearance, refined language, and cultivated wit. In most cases of middle-class background, he strove to imitate an aristocratic lifestyle. The model dandy in British society was George Bryan ‘Beau’ Brummell in his early days, an undergraduate student at Oriel College, Oxford, and later, an associate of the Prince Regent. In 1799, upon coming of age, Brummell – although not from an aristocratic background – inherited from his father a fortune of thirty thousand pounds, which he squandered on costume, gambling, and high living. His snobbery was one of style and fashion. The new development in fashion he started off was in his perfect plainness. His understated elegance and refinement set the standard in masculine dress. To a world in which dress was dictated by wealth and display, he brought a new ethic of restraint. His mode of masculine dress reflected the neo-classical ideals in art and architecture of the day. It was based upon his interpretation of Greek masculine beauty. The best known image of Brummell is a watercolour produced by the prolific London portrait artist Richard Dighton.

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Although Lord Byron considered Brummel the most influential character of the nineteenth century after Napoleon, Romanticism created a different image of the dandy. The romantic pose was always to appear at ease, but it was a casualness that was as painstakingly cultivated as the outward perfection of the dandy. The romantics wore their collars unbuttoned to show their pale chests. Broad brimmed hats kept their white complexions away from the sun. Byron, in order to conceal his club-foot, wore loose trousers, an innovation that would become a ‘must’ among his followers soon after. In France, from the 1750s onwards, the English were much admired in certain (aristocratic) circles. The number of French visitors to England increased substantially and many travellers published an account of their journey. English novels were popular in translation. Voltaire had paid tribute to the English political system; the French admired the horse racing culture in England; their aristocracy drank ‘ponche’, and dined on ‘rosbif’ and ‘pouding’. After the defeat of Napoleon, both English dandyism and Romanticism struck Paris like lightning. The French adopted the figure of the dandy and made him their own. French dandyism however took on a different direction. The Bourgeois Revolution of 1830 had an effect of idealizing practicality, economy and efficiency. In rebellion, Parisian artists and poets adopted dandiacal dress and haughty manners. They created a bohemian ‘aristocracy’ rejecting and mocking bourgeois society. Barbey d’Aurevilly intellectualized the dandy and identified dandyism with the battle against vulgarity. Writers such as Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire and J.K. Huysmans enhanced the status of the dandy by giving him a spiritual mission. Dandyism was defined as the outward manifestation of inner perfection.

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Tortoni’s at the Boulevard des Italiens closed in 1893. The famous name however was not lost. In 1858 a French immigrant in Buenos Aires named Touan opened a coffeehouse at no. 825 Avenida de Mayo. He called the establishment Café Tortoni. Nostalgia no doubt. The café recreated the atmosphere of the Parisian fin de siècle coffeehouse.

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The Boulevard Saint-Michel is a major street in the Latin Quarter. It is a tree-lined boulevard which runs south from the Pont Saint-Michel on the Seine, crosses the Boulevard Saint-Germain and continues alongside the Sorbonne and the Luxembourg Gardens, ending at the Place Camille Jullian just before the Port-Royal train station. The boulevard was an important part of Haussmann’s renovation of Paris. As the central axis of the Left Bank and the university at its heart, the area is and has long been a centre of learning and culture, and a hotbed of student life and political activism. Initially known as Boulevard de Sébastopol Rive Gauche, construction of the boulevard was decreed in 1855 and began in 1860. The name was changed to Boulevard Saint-Michel in 1867.

The Boulevard Saint-Michel is connected with a literary group known as the ‘Vilains bonhommes’ (the ‘naughty fellows’ – a journalistic insult addressed against fellow poet François Coppée and taken as an honorary name). The authors met in a room on the third floor of the Hôtel des Étrangers, dining, drinking, smoking, reciting verse, and creating parodies of each other’s work and that of the Parnassiens (preferably in an obscene manner – young Rimbaud was a master in producing such rhymes). The result was a collection of poems published in the Album zutique. The hotel’s barman Ernest Cabaner was teaching piano to Rimbaud using chromaticism as a method, colouring notes and giving them the sound of a vowel (this was the immediate source of Rimbaud’s inspiration for the 1871 sonnet ‘Voyelles’ in which each vowel is assigned a colour which helped popularize synesthesia).

The Boulevard Saint-Michel has been the subject of a number of paintings. Jean-François Raffaëlli was a Parisian realist painter and printmaker who exhibited with the Impressionists. Until the mid-1870s he produced primarily costume pictures. His interest in the positivist philosophy of Taine led to a change in approach. Having articulated a theory of realism that he named ‘caractérisme’, he began depicting the people of his time, particularly peasants, workers, and rag pickers seen in the suburbs of Paris. His careful observation of man in his milieu paralleled the anti-aesthetic, anti-romantic approach of Naturalist novelists led by Émile Zola. Degas invited him to take part in the Impressionist exhibitions of 1880 and 1881, an initiative that bitterly divided the group. Not only was Raffaëlli not an Impressionist, but he threatened to dominate the 1880 exhibition with a staggering display of thirty-seven works. Monet, resentful of Degas’s insistence on expanding the Impressionist exhibitions by including several realists, refused to exhibit. After 1890, Raffaëlli shifted his attention from the suburbs to the inner city of Paris. The oil painting ‘Boulevard Saint-Michel’ (1890) is an example of that notable stylistic shift in his work.

Luigi Loir was one of the foremost painters of views of Paris and among the first artists to glamorize the urban lifestyle of the late nineteenth century. He was known as the ‘official painter of the Parisian Boulevards’. Amongst the many street paintings are the Boulevard Henri IV, Rue de la Santé, Le Val de Grâce, Quai Saint Michel, Quai des Augustins, Rond Point des Champs Élysées, Boulevard du Palais, and others. His interest in street scenes was influenced by a transformation that had entirely reshaped the urban landscape and the way in which Parisians spent their leisure time. The street itself became the centre of activity – from the bohemian centre of Montmartre to the upper class promenades of the leisure class. Loir’s cityscape is more than a simple depiction of Paris and its inhabitants. The artist was fascinated by the changing effects of both the different times of day and the varying weather conditions. Among the many street and boulevard scenes he created is a delightful oil painting of the Boulevard Saint-Michel in the early evening (he also produced a ‘Coin du Boulevard Saint-Michel’).

Peter Sarstedt is an Anglo-Indian singer and songwriter. Born in Delhi in 1941, the family returned to England thirteen years later. The singer hit the big time in 1969 with his song ‘Where Do You Go To (my Lovely)?’, a song about a fictional poor girl from the backstreets of Naples named Marie-Claire (it has been suggested that this is a reference to Sophia Loren) who grows up to become a member of the jet set. The lyrics describe her from the perspective of a childhood friend. The title suggests that wealth has not brought her happiness or contentment in life. The lyrics contain a set of international references to what was hot and fashionable in the late sixties and early seventies, from personalities such as Marlene Dietrich (actress and singer), Zizi Jeanmaire (ballerina), Pierre Balmain (designer), Sacha Distel (singer), the Aga Khan (racehorse owner who, in 1969, married the fashion model Sarah Croker-Poole), Picasso and The Rolling Stones, to exotic places like Juan-les-Pins (Riviera beach resort) and Saint Moritz (ski resort in the Alps). In 1969 the song was awarded the prestigious Ivor Novello Award presented by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) – the writing community in other words. The two opening verses seem to justify John Peel’s comments on this song. In a New Musical Express interview, the legendary BBC disc jockey named the record as his personal worst of all time.

You talk like Marlene Dietrich
And you dance like Zizi Jeanmaire
Your clothes are all made by Balmain
And there’s diamonds and pearls in your hair, yes there are.

You live in a fancy apartment
Off the Boulevard Saint-Michel
Where you keep your Rolling Stones records
And a friend of Sacha Distel, yes you do.

The historical part of Warsaw’s Old Town (Stare Miasto) dates back to the thirteenth century. Most of it was destroyed during the Second World War but later painstakingly reconstructed. Miodowa Street is located in the Old Town and links Feta Street with Krasiński Square. Miodowa literally means honey. In the sixteenth century the street was famous for its ginger bread shops – hence its name. The street has a rather tasty cultural history too.

Bernardo Bellotto was a Venetian urban landscape painter or vedutista, famous for his views of European cities such as Dresden, Vienna, or Turin. He was the pupil and nephew of Canaletto and sometimes used the latter’s name, signing himself as Bernardo Canaletto. Like many fellow artists, he was a well-travelled man. In 1764, he accepted an invitation from Poland’s newly elected king, Stanisław August Poniatowski, to become his court painter in Warsaw. Here he remained for the rest of his life, producing numerous delightful urban views. With meticulous detail he depicted the streets and architecture of the capital. In 1777, he painted a view Miodowa Street with the hustle and bustle of the traffic and the architectural splendour of its Rococo palaces, mansions and churches. One of the buildings (the roof at least) which the artist included on the painting is the late seventeenth century church of the Capuchins, founded by King Jan III Sobieski. The church was built by Tylman van Gameren, an architect and engineer who was born in Utrecht. At the age of twenty-eight he settled in Poland where he was employed by Maria Kazimiera, wife of King Jan III. Tylman was responsible for a number of buildings that are regarded as gems of Baroque architecture. In Poland, he is known as Tylman Gamerski.

How did such a talented Dutch artist end up in Poland? In a time that the notion of nationhood was not a matter of concern, Holland was effectively made up of cities. This city-culture created a society that did not nurture the leading role of an aristocracy as was the case elsewhere in Europe. Socio-economic life was dominated by well-to-do ‘burghers’ who lived and worked in the cities. Equality of opportunity in Dutch economic life gave society a competitive edge that was unrivalled. The Dutch ‘Golden Age’ was an era of extraordinary vitality, be it in economic, scientific or artistic terms. With the growing prosperity of the Republic, the demand for works of art increased. Intense competition made art cheap. It meant that painters needed to supplement their income in order to keep their families afloat. Jan Steen ran a public house, Jan van de Capelle was a textile merchant, Willem Kalf an antique dealer, Jacob van Ruysdael was a surgeon, and most cruelly of all: Meindert Hobbema stopped painting altogether after marriage. He found a more lucrative job in an Amsterdam tax office. The seventeenth century produced too many artists and not enough clients. The market was too small for such an overwhelming presence of talent. To young artists, the presence of so many painters proved inhibiting. For many there was but one solution: move – move elsewhere, anywhere. And move they did during the Golden Age. They moved in droves. They headed for England, Italy, Sweden, Germany, even for Russia. It is interesting to note that foreign ambassadors in the Netherlands functioned as ‘scouts’ who encouraged artists to move abroad with the promise of employment or commissions. William Temple for instance was known to persuade artists to cross the Channel and settle in England. The situation for a talented young architect was similar to that of other artists. Tylman was trained by Jacob van Campen whilst the latter was busy building the famous Amsterdam Stadhuis on the Dam. In 1650, Tylman left for Italy, the dream and ambition of any seventeenth century artist. While in Venice, he earned the reputation as a skilled painter of battle scenes. In 1660, he was working in Leiden. There he met Prince Jerzy Sebastian Lubomirski, and accepted the tempting invitation to come to Poland as his architect and military engineer (to design fortifications). From 1670 onwards, he won fame as a court architect of palaces, gardens, country houses, monasteries and churches in and around Warsaw. In 1685 he was formally acknowledged as a Polish nobleman. Van Gameren left behind more than seventy grand buildings and a collection of architectural some 1,000 drawings.

The most famous person to hang around Miodowa Street was young Chopin. Thanks to his extensive correspondence, much can be learned about the composer’s favourite places in Warsaw. One of them was the area on and around Miodowa Street where the entire social life of the Polish capital was concentrated. The street had a number of bookshops. One of the shops which sold books about musical composition was owned by Antoni Brzezina who, between 1822 and 1832, ran a firm that published mainly small piano compositions of Polish composers: Chopin, Elsner, Kurpiński, and Ogiński. After 1832 Sennewald took over the publishing house. Young Chopin was a regular customer at Brzezina’s shop. The surrounding area had numerous cafés where students and intellectuals debated for hours about art and politics. Apparently, Chopin could be found here almost every day. It was in this area that the composer’s early career took off. In January 1821 a new music society was established under the aegis of the Warsaw Merchant Club, located at that time at Miodowa Street. The merchants of the city were keen to promote art, culture and entertainment for the benefit of the educated classes in town and in support of various altruistic causes. The first confirmed Chopin performance at the club took place on 19 December 1829. Krasiński Square was the former home to the Polish National Theatre. It was the site where Chopin premiered his first piano concerto in March of 1830. Six months later he played his farewell concert there before leaving the country forever.

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