Turmoil of Paris Commune

The Hotel De Ville (Town Hall of Paris) is a short walk for us and we took off on foot early in the morning to see this significant exhibition PARIS in the time of the Impressionists: The Masterpieces of the Musee d’Orsay about a dramatic period in Paris history. We easily forget that fatal civil rioting events happened here in Paris when we walk the elegant streets today.

Purloined direct from Wikipedia a potted version of the first revolution ‘On the night of 9 August 1792 a new revolutionary Commune took possession of the Hôtel de Ville; the next day insurgents assailed the Tuileries, where the royal family resided. During the ensuing constitutional crisis, the collapsing Legislative Assembly of France was heavily dependent on the Commune for the effective power that allowed it to continue to act as a legislature. The all-powerful Commune demanded custody of the royal family, imprisoning them in the Temple fortress. A list of “opponents of the Revolution” was drawn up, the gates to the city were sealed, and on 28 August the citizens were subjected to domiciliary visits, ostensibly in a search for muskets. By the evening of the 31st, every prison in Paris was full to overflowing, and on 2 September the massacres in the prisons commenced.

Side view of Hotel de Ville

The next period of revolution is the one depicted in the exhibition currently on until May 28, 2011. It took place on 1st March 1871 when Paris was occupied by the German army. On 18th March, the town rose up against the government led by Adolphe Thiers, who then fled the capital and set himself up at Versailles. The Central Committee of the Paris National Guard then organized elections for the formation of a Commune, which was installed on 28th March in the City Hall dramatically draped in red flags.

The Paris assembly had an exceptionally young and popular profile. Among the elected were figures as illustrious as the emblematic writer Jules Vallès and the artist Gustave Courbet. Many women, such as Louise Michel, took part in the struggles, and many foreign refugees fought for the Communard movement. But the lack of any military organization and the dissension that broke out among the leaders quickly put an end to the hopeful utopia of the first days.

The “Commune”, the two-month period of insurrection from 18th March to 28th May 1871, ended with heavy repression, known as the “bloody week”, from 21st to 28th May.’ Good photos of the devastation here.

When Paris was rebuilt, strict rules applied about how the buildings should look

The exhibition began with architects drawings of many famous buildings around Paris that were erected after the uprisings and the strict rules for re building was explained in English on our  hand-held audio guides. These are the large stone buildings we come to know now as characterising the city. Principal in charge of redesigning the city, Eugene Haussmann applied rules about the design from the balustrades, decoration, even the imposition of continuous balconies only on the top floors were strictly adhered to.

No photos allowed in the exhibition so I am just using some of my own. Our history lesson of Paris also offered a view of some of the best art made at that time, a big surprise as we expected to see more engravings, prints and drawings but were offered vivid paintings by many of France’s leading Impressionists.

We found Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec; Paul Gauguin paintings before he left France;  fine early Parisian paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, August Renoir, Edgar Degas, Gustave Caillebotte and Camille Pissaro.  There was a significant Monet painting from the period when he was granted permission to paint a series on La Gare Saint-Lazare (station series).  More work by Vuillard, Signac, Luce, Béraud, De Nittis, Boldini, Blanche, Devambez, Steinlen and Carrière.

The new Paris gave these artists an alternative vision of life in this city.

We easily forget that civil rioting events happened here in Paris when walk the elegant streets today.

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