In this sweeping panorama epitomising the belle époque, three elegantly attired women are seen strolling on the fashionable Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, today Avenue Foch. The view is to the east, back towards the Place de l'étoile and the Arc de Triomphe in the background. De Nittis, along with Manet and his circle, was one of the key painters of modern life in Paris in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Not only did he portray the new leisured lifestyle and latest fashions of the time; the rooftop skyline of the newly-built Haussmannian boulevard is punctuated by a factory chimney, the symbol par excellence of a fast industrialising nation and source of the new-found bourgeois wealth.
From Naples, where he studied at the Accademia, to Florence where he exhibited with the Macchiaioli in 1867, de Nittis arrived in Paris to study under Jean-Léon Gérôme at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He remained in France for the rest of his career, first exhibiting at the Salon of 1869, and continuing to do so throughout the 1870s and 1880s. He was closely associated with the Impressionists, becoming a close friend of Edgar Degas, who invited him to participate in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874, the year of the present work. While de Nittis was no doubt influenced by the free plein air techniques of the Impressionists, he always remained faithful to the tenets of academic painting, his works displaying a tightly controlled line and a clear handling of space.
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