By 1846 (the year that Jongkind moved to Paris), the poet Charles Baudelaire had acquired some notoriety for publishing reviews of the Salons of 1845 and 1846, brazenly calling for artists to turn away from the Classical subjects and Academic teachings and embrace “the heroism of modern life.” After describing the opulent rooms and grand exhibition halls of the Louvre, he declares that: “for the rest, let us record that everyone is painting better and better - which seems to us a lamentable thing; but of invention, ideas or temperament there is no more than before. No one is cocking his ear to tomorrow's wind; and yet the heroism of modern life surrounds and presses upon us...There is no lack of subjects, nor of colours, to make epics” (Charles Baudelaire, Art in Paris 1845-1862: Salons and Other Exhibitions, translated by Jonathan Mayne, London, 1965, pp. 30-1).
Baudelaire’s words must have encouraged Jongkind when he painted Le Marché aux fleurs, Boulevard Richard Lenoir, Paris, in 1855. It is a daring and inventive interpretation of Paris in the mid-nineteenth century, and a celebration of its burgeoning public spaces (the market depicted, with the July Column of the Place de la Bastille in the background, still exists today). His stage-like composition and the bustling urbanity of his subject foreshadows Manet’s Music in the Tuileries (1862, The National Gallery, London and The Hugh Lane, Dublin, fig. 1), in which Baudelaire, a great support to both Manet and Jongkind at this time, is incidentally depicted. It is unusual for Jongkind’s motive to be a crowd of people and he has focused his attention to a central figure. Less sedate than Manet’s demurely seated figures in gold-colored dresses of the Tuileries, Jongkind’s Parisienne boldly lifts her skirt to show her leg to the viewer while capturing the attention of passersby (Jongkind’s figure can be seen in two related or preparatory works from the same period, see Jeune femme à l’ombrelle, Paris, Stein, no. 151, dedicated à mon ami Prouha, and no. 152).
For the Salon of 1855, Jongkind submitted his work under the French section, knowingly separating himself from his artistic origins as a Dutch landscape painter and asserting his place within French painting – an heir to the Realist and Barbizon traditions and a forerunner of Impressionism. His bold palette, loose paint handling and innovative use of light were regarded as influential precursors of the Impressionist school, and his impact was expressed by contemporaries such as Manet, Pissarro, Boudin and Monet (see lot 3). Though he was discouraged by not being awarded any distinction by the Jury (he had won a medal in 1852, and the State purchased his pictures in 1851 and 1852), he may have taken pride in the broader critical reception. As critic Edmond About wrote “Monsieur Jongkind is a very fine colourist. His slightly over-bright (!) colours belong to him alone, his vividly sketched landscapes have great character, his paintings could be recognized among thousands. This is a fairly rare merit today. Monsieur Jongkind is opening up a very pretty path in art” (as quoted in Victorine Hefting, Jongkind’s Universe, 1976, Paris, p. 37, 40). Indeed, the present work shows his ingenuity, promise and influence.
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