In their images of mid-19th century France, Meryon and Millet looked to the pre-industrial sections of Paris and its environs for inspiration. The featured works by Meryon draw heavily from scenes of French city life of the period and offer architectural perspectives of Parisian landmarks, while Millet's prints are primarily rural in nature, inspired by his upbringing in the country. The publication includes a description of the etching process, reflections on Paris during the artists' lives, a catalogue of the exhibition, and analyses of several featured works.
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In the middle of the 19th century, Paris was, as Baudelaire characterized her, that "most restless of capitals." No longer the city of Louis XIV..., still haunted by the grandiose, Napoleonic dream of herself as the heart of Europe, she was a city in search of herself. Saddled with a pre-revolutionary infrastructure, she faced the pressures, all too conducive to turmoil, of exploding population growth. At the same time...the city, like France, sought to adapt to the conditions of the Industrial Revolution, to become modern....[S]ome, like Charles Meryon, fixed their gaze not on the future, but on the past and the Paris that was daily disappearing before their bewildered, uncomprehending eyes....For others, it was better to escape. In the works of Jean-Francois Millet, Paris makes herself felt in her absence, for his art reflects a poignant longing to find solace in the timeless rituals of the vanishing peasantry, increasingly swallowed by the rapacious city.
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