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Archive for the ‘arts and literature’ Category

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Paris Street on a Rainy Day  (1877)

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Gustave Caillebotte was born in 1848 in a wealthy environment. His father grew rich in the sale of cloth to the armies of Napoleon III. The family fortune allowed him to freely choose activities (painting, boating, boat building) in which he excelled.

He studied law and obtained a license in 1870, the year in which he began to paint. He entered the École des Beaux-Arts but only stayed there for a year. The death of his father, in 1874, brought him a comfortable fortune at the age of twenty-six and allowed him to devote himself to painting without commercial concerns.

Gustave Caillebotte did not consider himself a great painter, which he nevertheless is. Although he approached painting as a hobby, he reached the level of the greatest. He is recognized today in art history as an important realist and impressionist painter of the 19th century.

Caillebotte’s merits in helping the struggling impressionist movement are undeniable, both as a financial supporter and a propagator. He was involved in the organization of exhibitions. This help was invaluable because the Impressionists were by no means organizers whereas Caillebotte, besides his remarkable artistic talent, was also a good administrator. He also bought paintings from Degas, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, and Manet who needed to sell in order to live. He thus built up an exceptional collection which he would bequeath to the State upon his premature death from pneumonia in 1894.

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 Lunch (1876). This well-to-do bourgeois interior is the dining room of the Caillebotte mansion, rue de Miromesnil, in Paris. A valet serves the painter’s mother and his brother, René.  The backlighting from the windows allows Caillebotte to study the reflections of light on the crystal dishes and the black table.

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Many of Caillebotte’s paintings exude melancholy and isolation. In an age, when gay men had to stay in the closet, it was wise to keep a distance. Lone observers were a frequent theme:

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Young Man at His Window (1875)

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Eating in style for a reasonable price is still possible in Paris, as attractive historical interiors abound in the city. They have been revamped with care and, unless they had been invaded by the nonsensical cuisine nouvelle, they serve hearty traditional meals at affordable prices. They are usually called bouillons or brasseries. These establishments were meant to serve simple dishes to people on a budget, yet they did it in sumptuous interiors. We are used to minimalism, which forces us to eat in a simple environment and often without the slightest comfort for the eye. In the eateries of our ancestors, every surface was an invitation for an artist to leave his mark. To eat in those places brings pleasure to both the body and the soul. You can still enjoy the same well-being in the following places:

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BRASSERIE JULIEN

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The restaurant is a masterpiece of Art Nouveau. Admire remarkable craftsmanship while eating at equally remarkable low prices. If you are a fan of Edith Piaf, request table # 24, where she used to meet the tragic love of her life, the boxer Marcel Cerdan.

Métro: Strasbourg Saint-Denis or Bonne Nouvelle

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BEEFBAR PARIS

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Under this harsh name hides the former La Fermette Marboeuf.  A fermette (little farm) indeed! In this luxurious glass and art tiles interior, you would feel like a precious plant in a Victorian winter garden. As the current name indicates, the restaurant is meat-focused with Kobo and Black-Angus steaks as the key items on the menu. According to the current reviews, the service is not entirely satisfactory for the prices asked.

 Métro: Alma-Marceau

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BOUILLON CHARTIER GRANDS BOULEVARDS

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Founded in 1896, this was the first of a chain of popular eateries operated by brothers Edouard and Camille Chartier. This restaurant has already served fifty million meals for relatively cheap prices. The fare is simple and there is always a line outside.

Métro: Grand-Boulevards

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BOUILLON CHARTIER MONTPARNASSE

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There was a plain restaurant in the same place since 1858 before Eduard Chartier scooped it up in 1904 to make it into another of his successes. He gave the interior an Art Nouveau facelift with a stained glass ceiling, floral tiles, and a profusion of intricate mirror frames. Simple cuisine at very reasonable prices.

Métro: Montparnasse – Bienvenüe or Saint-Placide

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LA BRASSERIE VAGENENDE

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Located on Boulevard Saint-Germain, this jewel box of Art Nouveau was created in 1904 as one of the Chartier restaurants. A superb Belle Époque style reigns throughout with mirrors and remarkable woodwork. The place was saved in time from being turned into a supermarket. Restored with the utmost care, it is now classified as a historic site. The main dishes are priced between 21 and 40 Euro.

Métro: Mabillon or Odéon

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BOUILLON RACINE

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You’ll find this enchanting creation of Cartier brothers tucked away in a quiet street near the Luxembourg Garden. It has been carefully restored to its former beauty. The main dishes are priced between 14.50 and 21 Euro.

Métro: Cluny – La Sorbonne or Saint-Michel Notre-Dame

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MULLARD

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August 1837 marks the departure of the first train from the Saint-Lazare railway station. The Saint-Lazare district was then a suburb, almost the countryside. The Mullard family opened a bar across the street from the railway station and in thirty years amassed enough money to transform the venue into a restaurant for prosperous businessmen. The interior design dates from 1895 and features marble columns, a mosaic ceiling, and painted tiles picturing countryside attractions that could be reached by train. Despite the apparent luxury, Mullard offers a 3-course menu for a mere 32 Euro.

 Métro: Gare Saint-Lazare

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Mullard’s mosaic ceiling

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LE TRAIN BLEU

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This palatial restaurant can put Versailles to shame. It was opened in 1900 to serve the visitors of The Grand Exposition. It is located in another railway station, the Gare de Lyon. Regardless of the Art Nouveau fashion overwhelmingly used at the time, this interior recalls the excessive splendor of the Second Empire. Le Train Bleu refers to the legendary overnight train, which first left in 1868 and still links Paris to Nice and the azure blue of the Mediterranean Sea.

The prices are high but not excessive. However, if you think of going in for just a cup of something cheap, they are ready for you. The price for tea or coffee is 18 Euro.

Métro: Gare de Lyon

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The ornate ceiling of Le Train Bleu restaurant

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The above list is not exhaustive. There are more fabulous and budget-accessible restaurants in Paris. If you know of one that should be mentioned here, let us know in the comments.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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Related posts:

Merry Noël from Paris

The Many Faces of French Santa

Les Halles: The Belly of Paris

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Giovanni Boldini: Signora Diaz-Albertini

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What woman would not wish to be highly desirable? Anyone able to bring on that dream would be well-rewarded. Giovanni Boldini, with his magic brush, made a lucrative career out of injecting voluptuousness into his sitters’ portraits. Everything in his paintings exuded sensuality: not only the woman herself but also her outfit. Jewels gleamed against bare flesh, satins glistened while embracing curves, slick silks slithered, exposing a shoulder, fluffy furs invited a caress.

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The Italian painter Giovanni Boldini (born in 1842) settled in Paris in 1872. He died there, a very wealthy man, in 1931

Boldini’s racy paintings touched the extreme limit of convention. His work was the talk of the high society dinners. In the last years of the Belle Époque, at the height of his fame, the demand was so high that he chose his sitters. To have a portrait painted by Boldini was a defining sign of eligibility. It was known that the artist did not deign to honor a portrait commission below one million francs – except for a privileged relationship with the model. (For comparison, the wage of a maid was one franc a day.)

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As the Belle Époque sped toward the end of the century, the hefty beauties of the Second Empire gave way to slim, ethereal beings. Not every fashionable woman was able to fit that image. It took the clever brush of a painter to stretch bodies lengthwise and refine features. Boldini was the master of flattery.  

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From chubby to lascivious: Alice Regnault, a popular actress, became a red hot item thanks to Boldini’s art

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Madame Wertheimer (1902): One of the daring décolletage portraits that made Boldini’s fortune

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In the past, before Boldini’s time, a high-ranking courtesan’s ambition—when she had a portrait painted—was to look like a grande dame. Now fashionable titled women wanted to look like courtesans. Below are the portraits of two women, coincidentally both named Marthe, who were vastly apart on the social scale. One is a wealthy prostitute, the other a Romanian princess. Which is which?

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Princess Marthe Bibesco and Marthe de(*) Florian

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Boldini’s portrait of Marthe de Florian was recently discovered in her Parisian apartment that had remained locked for seventy years. The story was published in an earlier post here: How the Courtesans Lived – A Time Capsule

(*) Celebrated courtesans often appended the aristocratic particle de to their chosen names.

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Related posts:

Could You Be a Salonnière?

Bois de Boulogne: The Rendezvous of Wealth and Opulence

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Léon Frédéric: The Boys

An excellent article on the My Daily Art Display blog—where you’ll always find excellent articles—focusing on the Belgian painter Léon Frédéric (1865 – 1940), offers a rare look at the 19th-century peasant clothes. For those who research the history of fashion, such images are uncommon as the material they find prevailingly depicts upper-class clothing. Yet peasants formed the overwhelming part of the 19th-century’s population, and the newly-built railways brought them into cities in large numbers. Their simple clothing, mostly of somber colors, did not differ from that of the working-class city dwellers.

In his cycle, The Age of the Peasant, Frédéric’s portrayal of four peasant generations gives us the opportunity to follow the working-class people as the hardships of life wrote wrinkles on their faces. More about this realistic painter and his work here.

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The Girls

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The Betrothed

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Married Couples

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The Elderly

Related post:

Fashion Enima: The Secrets of Victorian Restroom

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Giuseppe de Nittis: The Salon of Princess Mathilde, 1883

One of the most significant cultural differences between the Brits and the French was their attitude toward women. The British gentleman suffered women where he could not avoid them and avoided them where he could by seeking refuge in men-only clubs. The Frenchman, on the contrary, did not feel bright unless there were women around. He sought them out during his leisure time, and he was keen to converse in their company. The French were never afraid of clever women and they allowed them to rule as the salonnières.

 

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A 17th-century literary salon.

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The tradition of the Parisian Salon was an old one. It began in the seventeenth century and was largely abandoned during the WW1. The salonnières, who hosted these gatherings in their homes, held power. Political plots were hatched, new literary trends were started, scientific discoveries were publicized, and new artistic talents were launched under their influence.

Could you, yourself, become a salonnière?

Who knows? Maybe you already have every asset to revive this ancient tradition. Let’s see what it takes:

You must be a woman. Salons were always ran by women. It did not matter whether or not they were respectable. A princess could compete with a courtesan for the same guests.

You must be wealthy. Your house must offer an agreeable background for the sophisticated exchange of ideas. A well-run Salon may provide a Wednesday dinner for some thirty seated guests and a Saturday reception for about one hundred. Quality wine was a must. Good food was expected as well.

You must have a complacent husband or no husband at all. Very rarely, a husband would hang around and co-host the events. The ideal husband would content himself with a visit to his mistress and allow his wife to rule the crowd.

You must have a great man. Salons were built around a great man who served as a magnet to attract other desirables. He could be a philosopher, a politician, a music composer, or a famous author. Often, the great man was the salonnière’s lover and her goal was to make him even greater.

You must be attentive to new trends and courageous enough to start one. Depending on the type of your salon, you must be aware of what goes on in politics, culture, or science. You must read the latest novel, meet the latest polar explorer, or recognize the right time to introduce new talent.

You must be a social expert. It is important to be well-informed about your guests and careful not to invite two bitter enemies. Knowing the latest gossip is always helpful in that matter and having your spies in competing salons is a clever way to stay on top of things.

You must be a woman of authority. Your salon, your rules. If the conversation does not go the right way, you stop it politely, but with no room for appeal. It is your choice whether you allow an uncontrolled flow or, on the contrary, whether you choose a subject of conversation and insist that the guests stick within the limits.

You must be ready to make it a full-time job. Seeing new trends coming, finding the right guests, sending out invitations, supervising the staff, choosing wines and menus, listening to all relevant gossip, and all the plotting and scheming that goes into it, will take your entire waking time.

 

Related posts:

How to Succeed in Paris

The Goncourts: Gossip Inc.

 

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You can’t miss them, the bouquinists.  Along the Seine, nine hundred of their bottle-green boxes with 400,000 second-hand books figure as one of the symbols of Paris. They hark back to the medieval times when manuscript sellers chose the riverbank near the university to trade their goods.

Booksellers frequently had problems with authorities if the contents of the books displeased the powerful. Should the city police be on the lookout for a forbidden material, the owner of a small folding stand was at an advantage, especially if he offered non-censored pamphlets and scandalous gazettes.

In 1859, after many tribulations with the law, the bouquinists finally obtained the authorization to exercise their profession. The Town Hall set up concessions, allowing the salesmen to install the boxes in fixed places. Only second-hand books, antique art prints, and old magazines can be sold in these stands, although–if you take a closer look– you’ll see plenty of kitschy recent pictures of Paris. The average foreign tourist prefers that to antique French books.

Year after year, the number of the stands keeps increasing: 156 in 1892, 200 in 1900 at the Universal Exhibition, and 240 in 1991, the year in which the second-hand booksellers were listed as the UNESCO Heritage. Today, three kilometers of bouquinist stands can be seen along the Right Bank from Pont Marie to Quai du Louvre and on the Left Bank from the Quai de la Tournelle to the Quai Voltaire.

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Related posts:

Greetings from Paris: Expect the Unexpected

The French Art of Peeing without Getting Wet Feet

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“He who broke the glass will pay!” This painting depict an ambulant lemonade seller in conflict with a customer. The art of Jean Geoffroy is a humorous witness to the ups and downs of the late 19th century childhood.

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Henri-Jules-Jean Geoffroy (1853-1924) became the painter of children because during his studies he shared a room with two teachers. When they opened a private school, he found his inspiration there. It was a good choice. The paintings pleased and Geoffroy’s career blossomed under the simple pseudonym of Géo. In 1882, he received his first major commission from the Ministry of National Education and, in 1887, he was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, the highest French order of merit.  

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Related posts:

James Tissot and the Women in Paris

Paris Markets in Victor Gilbert’s Paintings

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When one lives in Paris, nothing is as difficult as staying at home. The city contains so many enticing spectacles, free or paid entertainment, that the temptation often becomes the strongest and that one abandons one’s home, attracted as we are by the charm of the street. We do not know what we are going to see, but we are sure we will see something, and that something will be new. Curiosity is so strong in Paris that the trees themselves undergo it and set themselves in motion.”

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ACROSS PARIS by Crafty

So said Crafty, whose real name was Victor Eugène Géruzez (1840 – 1906). This graphic artist, painter, draftsman, and author of literature for youth, authored several picture albums depicting life in Paris in his humorous style. Let’s see how trees moved in Paris (and still do) as well as other spectacles, most of them completely free.

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Fire!

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The Aftermath of Fire

WEDDING

A Wedding

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The Omnibus Station 

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Poster Men Taking a Lunch Rest

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A Runaway Horse

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A Guided City Tour

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A Downpour

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c-AT THE CONFISEUR ( Boulevard de la Madeleine )

At the Confectioner’s

c-AT THE BOOKSELLER ( Boulevard des Italiens )

At the Bookseller’s / Food for the Mind

C-AN ACCIDENT ( Rue de Rivoli )

Running on Empty

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Traffic-Stopping Street Hygiene

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The Suburban Train

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After Midnight

Related post:

Events in the Street: Female Duel with Sand-Filled Socks

A Traveler’s Bonus:  The Most Beautiful Metro Stations in Paris

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A Belle Epoque courtesan of the first magnitude, Marthe de Florian (1864-1939) has been well forgotten since her “sentimental retirement”. But the reopening of her apartment, seven decades after her death, reminded her to our good memory by the brilliance of her treasures.

 

Monsieur Olivier Choppin Janvry is not close to forgetting the spring day of  2010 when he was mandated by a provincial notary to open a Parisian apartment which remained hermetically sealed since the beginning of WW2. This real estate of fifteen hundred square feet located in the Pigalle neighborhood was a frozen in sanctuary. Under a thin layer of dust, a whole world of high gallantry began to revive through the correspondence carefully classified and color-coded with silk ribbon ties according to the sender.

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France during WW2

The owner of the place died in Trouville-sur-Mer on August 29, 1939, bequeathing the apartment to her granddaughter Solange Beaugiron, then aged 20. During the German occupation, soon after, Solange left Paris to join the Free Zone in the south of France and settled down in the Ardèche. She never returned to the capital but, for the next seventy years, she scrupulously paid the quarterly dues on this Parisian apartment.

When she died in May 2010,  aged 91, the apartment revealed its Art Nouveau treasures, and especially a superb life-size portrait of its former owner clad in a vaporous evening gown of pale pink satin.

 

CORRECTION-FRANCE-ART-AUCTIONS

 

An expert identified the author of the portrait: Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931). Executed in 1898, this masterpiece remained an unknown in the work of the famous portrait painter and later sold for more than two million euros. It was common knowledge that the artist did not deign to honor a portrait commission below one million francs – except for a privileged relationship with the model. The wealthy Italian buyer of the painting was offered as a bonus a package of correspondence enlightening the personality of the said model and the gallant history of the Third Republic.

 

Who was Marthe de Florian? From a midinette to a high-end courtesan, read her story here.

Update: Some details in this article are disputed here.

Related posts:

The Noon Girl: La Midinette
The Gallery of Achievers: The Inescapable Sarah Bernhardt

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James Tissot: The Fashionable Beauty


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Self-portrait, 1885

James Tissot (1836 -1902) was a painter known on both sides of the Channel as he spent important chunks of his life both in England and in France. Born as Jacques Tissot to a prosperous merchant family in Nantes, Brittany, he decided to pursue an artistic career despite his father’s misgivings. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and, in 1859, aged only twenty-three, he already exhibited at the prestigious Paris Salon. He began with depicting the Middle Ages but soon moved to the portrayal of fashionable life, where he excelled. Tissot’s name is evocative of pleasing paintings of pleasing people in pleasing situations. In the 1880s he produced a series of paintings called La Femme à Paris. We had already seen one of them—and the story it depicts—in the post Without a Dowry. More of the series paintings follow here.

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The Ladies of the Chariots

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The Shop Girl


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A Woman of Ambition


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The Artists’ Wives


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The Woman of Fashion

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The Bridesmaid

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The Circus Lover

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Provincial Women

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At the Louvre

A lavish three-part Tissot’s biography can be found here.

Related posts:

Without a Dowry: The Business of Marriage

Jean Béraud: The Most Parisian of the Paris Painters

Paris Markets in Victor Gilbert’s Paintings

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