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The Discovery of Paris

free The Discovery of Paris: Watercolours by Early Nineteenth-Century British Artists

From 20/06/2013 to 15/09/2013

The Discovery of Paris - few exhibitions could have a more appealing theme. Focusing on the period c. 1802-40 and featuring seventy watercolours, preparatory drawings and associated prints, this exhibition includes outstanding works by Turner, Girtin and Bonington, and other artists who are now less familiar, such as Thomas Shotter Boys and William Callow. The beautiful Parisian views they chose are often the same as those painted by the artists we can see today selling their pictures in Montmartre or on the banks of the Seine. The Discovery of Paris charts the remarkable contribution of the British to the iconography of Paris, depicting the French capital as it became the major destination for mass middle-class tourism that it has remained ever since

With the ending of many years of war, first with the Peace of Amiens of 1802-3 and then after the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, Paris became an irresistible attraction for thousands of British tourists, among whom were many painters. Before the French wars, the city had been an important early stop on the Grand Tour, and it quickly re-assumed its key position. As steam-powered transport became available, the Grand Tour, and Paris, in particular, became increasingly popular for the middle classes, as well as the aristocracy. British artists lived in the city and both fuelled and responded to this demand. There was an unprecedented interest in views of Paris, and artists, from the obscure, such as Robert Batty and John Gendall, to the eminent, such as Turner and David Cox, responded to this excitement with an extraordinary range of works, from simple pencil views to the most elaborate watercolours, some for sale and exhibition, but many also for engraving as illustrations in guides and souvenir publications.

To listen to Stephen Duffy, the curator of the exhibition, Philip Mansel, author of Paris Between Empires 1814-1852 and Professor Robert Tombs, author of That Sweet Enemy: The French and the British from the Sun King to the Present, please check out the Culturethèque's podcast

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