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Street Scene, Paris [Rue Laffitte (?) ]

James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Artwork Details

Street Scene, Paris [Rue Laffitte (?) ]
circa 1883-1885
James Abbott McNeill Whistler
watercolor on brown prepared board
8 1/2 in. x 5 in. ( 21.6 cm x 12.7 cm )
Bequest of Margaret Watson Parker


Gallery Rotation Fall 2010
James McNeill Whistler
United States, 1834–1903
Street Scene, Paris [Rue Laffitte (?)]
circa 1883–85
Watercolor on prepared brown board
Bequest of Margaret Watson Parker, 1955/1.91
The actual location of this watercolor is unknown. Although it had been published with the present title before she acquired it, Margaret Watson Parker purchased this work as a view of Rouen. Such elevated views of a boulevard or street with pedestrian and carriage traffic below had long been a subject depicted by the Impressionists, particularly Pissarro, Monet, and Renoir.

Subject Matter:

This work was painted around the time Whistler turned 50. The artist had just lived in Venice for a year (1879-80) and was now living in London. Rue Laffitte is in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, between the Boulevard des Italiens and the Rue de Provence. Whistler created over 1700 watercolors in his lifetime. He painted thinly, leaving areas blank to suggest light or texture. He outlined a subject in pencil or brush, and then added washes quickly with small brushes, altering, but rarely rubbing out.

Physical Description:

This watercolor on brown prepared board is vertically oriented. The piece
is reputedly a view of a Parisian street (perhaps in the 8th arrondissement), and the perspective is as if the viewer is on the fourth floor of an adjacent
building. The upper two-thirds of the piece show a building-lined street,
curving gently to the left. The buildings are about six stories tall, and
additional rooftops are barely visible in the distance. On the ground
floor of the buildings, there are traces of people, shops, and cafés. In
the bottom third of the work, the road dissolves, but forms suggesting a
few people populate the space.

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