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Thoughts on Renoir's 'The Grands Boulevards'

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Year 8 student Marta A indulged her passion for art during the summer holidays. After watching a video by Khan Academy, she felt compelled to explore Renoir's famous painting, The Grands Boulevards

Below are her thoughts.


Year: 1875

Technique: Oil on canvas

Movement: Impressionist

Considered to be Renoir’s most famous view of Paris.

This painting represents a quaint, old Paris that we in the early 21st century are not familiar with. We can see horses and carriages instead of cars, and women wearing long Victorian dresses. This representation of Paris might not seem new to us but at the time it was as modernistic and current as you could get, both in what it was depicting and the way it was being depicted on the canvas with impressionist brush strokes designed to make the scene capture the moment and look like it was flying by.

The scene we see takes place in a wide well-lit boulevard. This boulevard was new and freshly built along with the many others constructed when Paris was being re-built from a city with narrow unplanned streets and alleys to a contemporary city. This painting was very modern for its time also by the use of the brush strokes, which dissolve the shapes of the people, trees and buildings, but not enough so that they are just reduced to dabs of paint along the canvas. This is because Renoir, contrary to other artists at the time like Monet, took an interest in really capturing the moment and the people of the moment, including details like their fashion, their family groups, expressions, movements and social status.

In conclusion in this piece of art by Renoir, is showing us the new Paris with new techniques and the more optimistic side of modern life at the time with a big community walking the streets instead of showing the small groups of people shortly before this time. I believe, for him, it was a celebration of the future.

Information source: Khan Academy’s video on the painting