Friday 13 April 2018

#ZolaStyle - The Bois de Boulogne in La Curee

April is #Zoladdiction month and this year Fanda is encouraging us to find the art in Zola's writing.

Literal Painting: 
Zola had great interest in paintings. He had been a strong promoter of Impressionism; supported and befriended young artists such as Manet and Cézanne. His literary style often had quality of a painting. Quote and share those literal paintings you find from the book you are reading, or any book you have read; add paintings or pictures too if you like.

This year I'm reading La Curee (The Kill) which is set in Paris during the mid 1860's at the height of the Haussmannisation of Paris. Napoleon III, the self-styled Emperor of the Second Empire 'pursued a policy of modernisation and 'progress'. He determined to make Paris clean and salubrious, and above all 'modern' according to my Introduction by Brian Nelson [1]. Georges Eugene Haussmann was the civil servant charged to bring about these monumental changes.

Huge open boulevards and new apartment blocks were carved through the old streets and suburbs of Paris. Land and homes were ruthlessly appropriated. Trees were planted and new parks were created, but
the real aim of Haussmann's works was the securing of the city against civil war. He wished to make the erection of barricades in Paris impossible for all time. [2]

All of this was achieved via creative accounting!

The Bois de Boulogne was created between 1852-58 from an old meadow that had been allowed to run to wrack and ruin. It is now the second largest park in Paris, situated in the 16th arrondissement. It has lakes, a cascade, two race tracks, greenhouses, a castle, a zoo, an amusement park and a tennis park where the French Open is now held.

Much of the action at the beginning of La Curee occurs around the Bois de Boulogne, where all the newly wealthy folk like to parade, showing off their wares.

The great slice of sky hanging over this small piece of nature caused a thrill, an indefinable sadness; and from these paling heights fell so deep an autumnal melancholy, so sweet and heartbreaking a darkness, that the Bois, wound little by little in a shadowy shroud.
Bois de Boulogne, M.H.Hiver. 1855 

The greensward ran on, with gentle undulations, to the Porte de la Muette, whose low gates, which seemed like a piece of black lace stretched along the ground, were visible in the distance; and on the slopes, in the hollows, the grass was quite blue.
The Satyr in the Bois de Boulogne, Félix Vallotton, 1904

Here and there, on the other side, along the roadway, were late strollers, groups of black dots, making their way slowly back to Paris; and high up, at the end of the procession of carriages, the Arc de triomphe, seen at an angle, stood out in its whiteness against a vast expanse of sooty sky.
Amazzone al Bois De Boulogne, Giuseppe de Nittis, 1874.75.

On the left, at the foot of the narrow lawns intersected by flower-beds and shrubs, the lake, clear as crystal, without a ripple, lay as though neatly trimmed along its edges by the gardeners' spades.
The Path in the Bois de Boulogne, Henri Matisse, 1902

On the drive home, the barouche was reduced to a crawl by the long line of carriages returning by the side of the lake. At one point they had to pull up completely.
Bois de Bolougne, Jean Béraud 

The warm October day, which had given the Bois a feeling of spring and brought the great ladies out in open carriages, threatened to end in a bitterly cold evening.
Allustante Porte Dauphine Bois de Boulogne, Joaquín Pallarés, 1872

The line of carriages was still travelling along the side of the lake, with its even trot and noise like a distant waterfall.
L'avenue du Bois de Boulogne, Georges Stein.

[1] Nelson, Brian, Introduction in The Kill, Emile Zola (Oxford University Press 2008)
[2] Walter Benjamin, Paris, the Capital of the Nineteenth Century, in id., The Arcades Project, trans Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin (Cambridge, Mass, and London: The Belknap Press 1999)


  1. Great paintings, Brona! Absolutely gorgeous! <3
    I knew you would bring up these Bois the Boulogne scenes.

    1. Now I just have to find some paintings that reflect the houses and rooms described by Zola.

      It's been a fun way to read this book :-)

  2. I love the paintings, especially the Felix Vallotton. I've been to Paris several times now (it's only three hours by high-speed train) but I've never been to the Bois de Boulogne. It's at the top of my list if I get back there before we leave Germany!

    1. Ohhh I hope you do - I'd love to see some modern pics of the Bois today :-)
      Lucky you to be only 3hrs away from Paris!


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