|Claude Monet, Boulevard des Capucines,Paris, 1873|
(Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri)
Truth to nature and truth to human vision were the core beliefs of the the impressionists. There is a great myth surrounding impressionists that they just represented what they wanted to, actually their work was far more calculated than that. The paintings they produced were the interpretations of what the artist was seeing. The world around them was changing and they captured those transitory moments and specific places.
Haussmanization of Paris was a transformation that the impressionists were eager to record and Boulevard des Capucines, Paris is Monet's impression of what he saw out of the window of photographer Nadar's apartment. He has captured the grand boulevard revealing the order of the city where everyone and everything has a place, their own zone - pedestrians, trees, carriages. By taking this angle, Monet is choosing to represent this. The viewer has a bird's eye-view of the street.
While Monet is painting the modern Paris with its grand boulevards, carriages and aligned trees, he is using atmospheric perspective as well as concentrating on the light effects on a cold, wintry day. We have an immediate vision that is blurred and has a sketchy quality. Certain areas on the left side of the canvas are very hard to clearly differentiate. Pastel blues and lavenders shroud the indistinct part of the city that can be seen at the horizon and the top of the trees. The same light effects also reflect off the roofs and the store fronts of the buildings.
Monet wanted to get at light the way it reflected off things; his treatment of the hubbub of the city in Boulevard des Capucines, Paris, the city has become a landscape that he could use to capture the reflections of light. Monet's style was thought to be very radical by the critics. They thought it looked unfinished, like a sketch. Monet's sketchy technique and transitory effects, together could stand for the idea of modernity.