Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College

The Human Comedy: Chronicles of 19th-Century France

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Une promenade d'agrément

Une promenade d'agrément

Honoré Daumier (French, 1808–1879) Une promenade d'agrément aux Champs-Elysées (A pleasant stroll on the Champs-Élysées), 1855 Lithograph Gift of Eugene L. Garbaty, 1954.156

During the fifteen years of Haussmannization, Paris was transformed into a gigantic construction site. Daumier depicts this couple intent on taking their afternoon stroll on the Champs-Élysées de-spite the chaos of construction crews at work. The strong diagonal composition communicates the sense of unbalance his characters feel. Shortly after crowning himself Emperor, Napoléon III hired Georges-Eugène Haussmann to rebuild Paris as a great imperial city. Haussmann saw his role as that of “a demolition artist,” writing in his memoirs, “We ripped open the belly of old Paris [...] and cut a large opening through the almost im-penetrable maze of alleys”. With its widened boulevards and grand, new apartment buildings, Paris was being divided into two distinct zones. The middle and upper classes moved into expen-sive new apartments in the west, and the working classes relocated to the city’s northern and eastern edges. In his 1871 novel La Curée (The Kill), Émile Zola describes the shady dealings made possible by this period of frenzied property speculation.