Les Jardins des Tuileries
If you have ever visited Paris, you will surely have walked in the Tuileries Gardens, which stretch from the Louvre to the Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe, on the bank of the River Seine, in the very heart of the city. With its origin as an ornamental Florentine garden for Catherine de Medicis’ Tuileries Palace in 1564, it has been open to the public for nearly 450 years.
Over those centuries it has changed size and content. When the French Revolution started in 1789, it saw its fair share of bloodshed, and David, the painter, started to redevelop the gardens to his design. By 1800, when Napoleon moved into the palace, it was used for a curious mixture of public promenade and relaxation, and military parades. In 1870, the palace was burned by Communards in revolt; when the Tuileries Palace was finally demolished in 1883, the space that it had occupied was taken over as an extension to the garden.
Today it retains two substantial buildings: the Jeu de Paume and Musée de l’Orangerie, both at the Place de la Concorde end and almost surrounded by terraces. Its broad Grande Allée joins the massive Arc de Triomphe with its smaller sister, the Arc de Triomphe de Carrousel, by the Louvre. Depending on the season, the gardens may be busy with runners, noisy with childrens’ amusements, or a well of relative calm amid the rumbling rush of Paris and its traffic.
Corey LD et al. (2013), The Art of the Louvre’s Tuileries Garden, Yale UP. ISBN 978 0 300 19737 2.
The Rococo painter Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) does not appear to have painted the gardens themselves, but in Les Champs Élysées (c 1719) may show the gardens on the other side of what is now the Place de la Concorde.
The group of aristocrats feasting and cavorting in a luxuriant autumn landscape is typical of the sub-genre which became known as fête galante, showing the aristocracy outdoors at play, usually in mythological settings. These works were intended to circumvent the order of merit of painting genres of the day, which rated mythological and historical scenes highly, whilst allowing Watteau to paint images of the clients who paid for his paintings.
It may have been that the title given to the painting was also a deliberate double entendre, covering both the earthly location and that in mythology: ‘the Elysian Fields’, the final resting place of the heroic and virtuous.
By comparison, Jean-Baptiste Lallemand (c 1716–1803) is almost unknown today. He did though capture several of the defining moments of the start of the French Revolution, including the taking of the Bastille, and this, The Charge of the Prince of Lambesc in the Tuileries Gardens 12 July 1789 (1789-90).
Its style and vocabulary owe much to Watteau and the earlier landscape masters such as Poussin, but he produces an incongruous combination of violence, panic, and normal routine, without showing so much as a drop of blood. This epitomises the early days of the revolution.
Shortly before painting his most famous scene in the Tuileries, Édouard Manet (1832–1883) completed a smaller and less ambitious work set in its trees, Children in the Tuileries Garden (c 1861-2).
Seen now as the work which gave him the idea for the second painting, this shows a small group of children apparently being directed by an older girl in black, with a blue bonnet. There is an eery impersonality about the figures, though, which are either viewed from behind, or have little or no detail shown in their faces.
His Music in the Tuileries (1862) takes a similar rhythmic layout of trees, and fills them with the members of a fashionable Parisian crowd, who have come to listen to the music, socialise, and chat. Historians have identified many of Manet’s circle among the crowd: the poet Baudelaire, novelist Gautier, composer Offenbach, Fantin-Latour the painter, and the artist’s brother Eugène, a painter who married Berthe Morisot, the Impressionist. However others in the crowd have been anonymised, and like many of his paintings it lacks the sparkling finish expected for the Salon.
This painting was also the probable inspiration for notable Impressionist works, such as Renoir’s Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (1876).
Unlike other paintings by Manet, this sold the following year, to the opera singer and patron of Impressionism Jean-Baptiste Faure, and was eventually owned by Sir Hugh Lane when he died with the loss of RMS Lusitania. His will remained in dispute, and since 1959 this painting has been exhibited for alternating five year periods between The Hugh Lane in Dublin, and the National Gallery in London.
Adolph Menzel (1815–1905) is one of the two most famous German painters of the 1800s (the other being Caspar David Friedrich), whose style was mainly realist and pre-Impressionist. Although his battlefield paintings from the Austro-Prussian War in 1866 were remarkably frank in showing the realities of conflict, and his work was admired by Edgar Degas, he is not well known today outside Germany.
His Afternoon in the Tuileries Gardens (1867) is assumed to have been inspired by Manet’s Music in the Tuileries (1862), and has similarities in composition. Menzel also includes some direct quotations as a form of homage to Manet’s work, in some of the figures shown. However Menzel remained a detailed realist, carefully painting most of the foliage, the elaborate shadows in the foreground, and details of each figure.
There is some dispute over his working method. He was known to have made several sketches in the Tuileries Gardens, but painted this work back in his studio in Berlin. Conventionally this would have been based on those sketches, but when Menzel first showed the work he claimed that it was executed from memory.
As a pupil of Corot, Stanislas Lépine (1835–1892) could have been expected to be more widely known, but never became an Impressionist and has therefore been eclipsed. He painted mostly landscapes of Paris in Corot’s style.
Nuns and Schoolgirls in the Tuileries Gardens, Paris (1871-3) is unusually dark and Barbizon School in its appearance. The nuns and girls are shown emerging from the burnt-out shell of the Tuileries Palace, after the Paris Commune of 1871. The contrast between this sombre group of modestly-dressed figures and previous depictions of the gardens is interesting, and may reflect the spirit of the day in Paris, after the Commune was crushed but before Haussmann’s major reconstruction of the city.
Claude Monet (1840–1926) did not paint many of the central parks in Paris, but when he was living in Argenteuil in 1876 he produced three views of le Parc Monceau, and four of the Tuileries.
Two were only studies (esquisses), including this, Tuileries (study) (1876), which he subsequently signed and dated incorrectly to 1875. Together with the other study, it may have been the basis for one of the other, ‘finished’ works. This and the next painting were painted from the top of 198 Rue de Rivoli, where his friend Victor Choquet lived. In the background is the dome of Les Invalides and the spires of the Church of Saint-Clotilde.
Tuileries (1876), one of the two ‘finished’ works, shows a different view but from the same vantage point, for which no studies remain. Wildenstein tells us that this painting was used by Émile Zola in his novel l’Œuvre, as a painting by the hero Claude Lantier of a corner of the Place du Carousel. As is often the case with Monet’s paintings, what appears to be a brisk and spontaneous plein air has many brushstrokes which have applied wet on dry, indicating that he worked on this painting in the studio over a period of several days or more. Although figures are gestural, they and the foliage include quite fine marks and subtle details.
Monet’s views of the Tuileries are remarkable for being the first from such a height. Apparently Renoir painted a similar view, although that seems to be in a private collection and a suitable image is not available for inclusion here.
Gaston (de) La Touche (1854-1913) is another French painter of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who has been largely forgotten. In the 1880s his work was darkly (social) realist, but in 1891 he burned most of his earlier works, as he brightened his colours up and adopted a style close to that of the Symbolist Puvis de Chavannes.
A Water Fountain in the Tuileries (date not known) is painted in his later, brighter style and could pass for Impressionism. Human figures are here, for the first time, dark, vague and subjugate to the jet of water in the fountain, the trees and Louvre Palace behind. This is an unusual view of the Tuileries, and by being almost devoid of people appears quite dissociated from the normal. However La Touche appears to have painted many fountains, and this may have been intended to form part of a series of such views.
Maurice Brazil Prendergast (1861–1924) was an American Post-Impressionist who painted extensively in Europe, where he studied at the Académies Colarossi and Julian. He mainly painted in watercolour and made monotype prints prior to experimenting with oils in about 1895.
The Tuileries Gardens, Paris (1895) was probably made in his final few months before he returned to Boston, and he produced other works showing similar scenes in central Paris. He met Édouard Vuillard, whose influence appears to have extended to his use of colour here, and Pierre Bonnard, an addicted sketcher of street scenes in Paris.
Childe Hassam (1859-1935) was another American who studied in Paris at the Académie Julian, although he developed a thoroughly Impressionist style as a result.
Tuileries Gardens (c 1897) is an early work in Impressionist style, which has readily visible facture, and textbook linear perspective. Its gestural figures are skilfully executed, giving the viewer just sufficient detail to be able to distinguish different types of hats, for instance.
Unlike Monet and Renoir, Camille Pissarro (1830–1903) did not paint the Tuileries until very late in his career, when he was enjoying the challenge and commercial success of making series of paintings. At the end of 1898, when he was almost unable to paint outdoors, he rented a flat at 204 Rue de Rivoli, close to where Monet’s friend Victor Choquet had lived. This gave him an excellent indoor vantage point from which he could paint the Tuileries Gardens throughout the year. Over the following year or two, he completed 31 paintings showing the Tuileries Gardens and the vicinity, of which I show three, all in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
These two versions of The Garden of the Tuileries on a Winter Afternoon (1899) are composed almost identically to Monet’s view from nearly 25 years earlier, with the dome of Les Invalides and the spires of the Church of Saint-Clotilde in the background. Pissarro is perhaps the first to capture the appearance of the gardens when busy, as they are during fine weather even in the winter. His crowds of people are as varied and minimalist as those populating his other series paintings of Paris.
The Garden of the Tuileries on a Spring Morning (1899) is a very similar aerial view, this time well into springtime, with the trees in full leaf, in their brilliant fresh green foliage. Although there are fewer people now, Pissarro affords us some delicate detail, for instance in the pram just above the middle of the lower edge of the canvas.
There are some subtle differences between these three canvases which demonstrate that Pissarro’s painting was far from mechanical, and involved significant interpretation. The spring view has a far lower skyline which cannot be accounted for by its being angled more to the left than the winter views, for example. However details of trees and even quite small features in the distance match very well, supporting the view that he did try to remain faithful to the real world.
Jean-François Raffaëlli (1850–1924) was an ardently realist painter and printmaker, whose friendship with Edgar Degas almost broke the Impressionists. A Parisian by birth, he only had three months training under Jean-Léon Gérôme at the École des Beaux-Arts. Although many of his paintings showed the poor of Paris, later in his career he painted, then made prints of, scenes of Paris street life.
The Tuileries Gardens (1910) is one of his colour engravings of the gardens, in quite a formal view. It is easy to see how Degas’ enthusiasm for Raffaëlli to be included in Impressionist exhibitions was so divisive. Although his work was popular at the time, it was not in the least Impressionist, and now seems perhaps a little jaded and anachronistic.
Pierre Thévenet (1870-1937) was a Belgian Post-Impressionist who is also largely unknown today. He lived and worked in Paris from 1919, painting many views of the city.
The Tuileries Gardens in Autumn (1922) is unique among the paintings shown here in being completely depopulated, and shows some of the trees during leaf-fall, with their rich colours, and the Louvre in the background. Thévenet did paint figures in some of his other works, and it is not clear why none are (distinctly) shown here.
Wikipedia (in French).
I have shown 15 paintings by 11 different artists over a period of more than 130 years; those by Pissarro are very similar, being part of a larger series, and the unusual aerial view adopted by Monet, Pissarro and Renoir is the only commonality in composition or content. Most paintings featured many figures, although La Touche and Thévenet hid or removed them. Together they tell some of the rich history of the Tuileries Gardens, the many changes which have occurred in painting styles, and reflect a little of the changes wrought by the seasons too.