In addition to the social and political revolution, the Industrial Revolution brought about a completely new material life for the citizens of Paris. With its railroad stations, massive steel bridges, remarkable buildings, wide boulevards, public parks, and bustling crowds, Paris was an ideal birthplace for a new kind of art.


Sketch for The Pont de l'Europe, 1876

The railway enabled Parisians of all classes to travel for work or pleasure, to move into the city and out to the suburbs. In 1866, the wealthy Caillebotte family purchased a building plot at the intersection of the rues de Miromesnil and de Lisbonne in the eastern sector of the Europe district, some distance from the rail way station and the bridge. Impressed by the strong abstract patterns formed by bridge, streets, and buildings, Caillebotte was able to combine a convincingly "realist" vision of the scene with a complex construction in which the various elements are manipulated to create a strong composition.

The Pont de l' Europe (top two images) depicts a sunny, early afternoon scene with touches of bright color and dark shadows and a dynamic composition. Another, very different portrayal by Caillebotte of the same site focuses on a section of the massive iron bridge. The frame abruptly crops the figures shown. The trellis structures the composition. Through it we see a vertical trace of train tracks that leads the eye back toward the station. The roof of Charles Garnier's new Opera house can be seen on the left, while Flachat's huge station roof looms in the background on the right. The melding of men and metal in this almost monochrome blue-gray picture conveys a sense of the male world of trade and industrial progress.

The Pont de l'Europe, 1876

The Pont de l'Europe, 1880