Léon Lemaître, 1850 – 1905, FRENCH
LES HALLES, PARIS
Oil on panel
15.5 by 27cm., 6 by 10¾in.
Les Halles was the traditional central market of Paris. In 1183, King Philippe II Auguste enlarged the marketplace in Paris and built a shelter for the merchants, who came from all over to sell their wares. The church of Saint-Eustache was constructed in the 16th century. The circular Halle aux Blés (Corn Exchange), designed by Nicolas Le Camus de Mézières, was built between 1763 and 1769 at the west end of Les Halles. Its circular central court was later covered with a dome, and it was converted into the Bourse de Commerce in 1889. In the 1850s, Victor Baltard designed the famous glass and iron buildings, Les Halles, which would last until the 1970s. Les Halles was known as the “Belly of Paris”, as it was called by Émile Zola in his novel Le Ventre de Paris, which is set in the busy marketplace of the 19th century. More on Les Halles
Léon Lemaître, 1850 – 1905, was part of the first generation of painters of the “School of Rouen” who adhered to the esthetic pleinairiste. A student at the Beaux-Arts in Paris between 1873 and 1879, he witnessed the first impressionist exhibition in 1874 and, in Rouen, he became the propagandist of the movement that upset the official art. From his meeting with Charles Angrand, Charles Fréchon and Joseph Delattre is born a group that raises general indignation: ” Like the three Musketeers, the Rouen Impressionists are four; and like the three Musketeers still, they are young, ardent, loving the fight and could not be careful for one moment to give in to the “desire to impress the bourgeois” ” (Eugène Brieux).
Lemaitre played the role of an initiator with the small group, persuading them to open all the windows on which they look at nature. From 1890, faced with considerable contempt, Lemaître abandoned the exacting technique of divisionism inherited from Seurat and turned to the realizing views of Rouen. He represented the old monuments, often in gray or rainy weather, enveloped in the mist. More on Léon Lemaître.
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