Between 1852, when Napoleon III came into power, until 1914, when Europe fell under the horror and desolation of World War I, Paris experienced a time of opulence which has become known as Belle Epoque, "The Age of Beauty". Under the direction of architect, Hausmann, and landscapist, Alphand, the boulevards, buildings and parks of Paris were refurbished. Citizens experienced greater wealth with the economic boom and had the money to spend on art and luxuries that reflected their newly designed city. Along with such great artists as Monet, Degas, Sisley, Renoir, Manet, Beraud, Cortes and Galien-Laloue, Francois-Joseph Luigi Loir, (1845-1916) specialized in depicting the bustling Paris street scenes.(classicartgallery.com)
Luigi’s parents were of French origins, but his family lived in Austria as employees of the French royal family, the Bourbons – his father was a valet while his mother was a governess. The earliest years of Luigi’s life, then, were spent in the Gorritz castle, but shortly after his birth, the Loir family relocated to the Duchy of Parma, around 1847. In 1860, Luigi’s family, including his sister, returned to France. Luigi remained in Parma and began studying painting at the Academy of Arts. Three years later, his father fell sick and he moved to Paris to be with his ailing father and the rest of his family. It was his first experience in the city that would inspire his scenes for the rest of his career.(artnet.com)
Paysaye a Villiers-sur-seine
Oil on canvas
Upon finishing his studies in 1865, Loir had his debut in the Salon of Paris with " Paysage a Villiers-sur Seine", above, for which he received the highest acclaim. Loir then enrolled into studies under Jean Amable Amedee Pastelot (1810-1870) to become a mural painter. He became a very popular ceiling and mural painter. One of Loir's first commissions was to paint the murals and ceilings at the Chateaux du Diable in 1866.(cosmopolitanart.com)
Paris at Night
Oil on board
Evening Promenade, Le Havre
La Place de la Republique, Paris
Oil on canvas
Fom ARC at artrenewal.org
L'Avenue du Boid de Bologne
Oil on panel
The Night Café
Painting - oil on cardboard
His interest in the urban cityscape is perhaps more complex than a simple depiction of Paris and its inhabitants. Loir’s sincere reflections on the changing effects of both the different times of day and the weather show the aesthetic reflection put into his paintings. Loir’s often impressionistically-executed works exhibit qualities of a dedicated study of the changing light effects on the environment, from the early afternoon to dusk, allowing him to focus his audience’s attention on a source of light punctuating the otherwise cool colors of the canvas. His use of the most recognizable icons of the city nevertheless created a sense of nostalgia for these urban monuments.(artnet.com)
A Parisian Street Scene with Sacre Coeur in the distance
Fom ARC at artrenewal.org
The interest in the Parisian street scene was influenced, however, by another transformation that had entirely reshaped the Parisian landscape and how Parisians spent their leisure time. The street itself became the center of activity – from the bohemian center of Montmartre to the upper class promenades of the leisure class; it was on the streets of Paris that one found the heart of activity. Loir took to the streets in search of his inspiration, studying it and its inhabitants.(artnet.com)
Paris sous la neige
The Porte Maillot, Snow Effect, Sunset
Oil on canvas
With a gift for creating intimate and authentic depictions of the characters in working class quarters, as well as the boulevards, cafes and restaurants of fashionable society, Loir became a renowned artist, appreciated by the critics, and able to live comfortably from his art. He showed a fascination for the atmosphere in winter. It's mists, dark skies, rain and snow, and the bustle and theatrical lighting of the boulevards in the twilight, and at night.Although Luigi Loir had a preference for a brisk and spontaneous manner, which leant his work an impressionistic quality, he was capable of precise detail and touches of color. It was this combination which distinguished him from his contemporaries, and created the characteristic atmosphere of Loirs's pictures.
Les Preparatifs de la Fete Foraine
Oil on canvas
Many of Loir’s works, which include oils, watercolors, and lithographs, were acquired by the city of Paris and by French museums. During the Salon des Sciences at the Hotel de Ville, Loir exhibited "Les Preparatifs de la Fete Foraine", above. The painting overwhelmed the museums. Loir had finally received the recognition he was due. Their response would also influence the Municipal Council of Paris to purchase to "Le Marche a la Ferraille", the city of Paris would acquire "La Rue de la Pitie, vue du Val de Grace" and The Empress of Russia to purchase the watercolor entitled "The Celebration of the Throne".
In 1870, he was commissioned into the military to record the battles of Bouret. Loir concentrated exclusively on painting views of Paris. In these works, Loir caught and expressed the many faces of Paris, at all hours of the day. Though some thought him excessively methodical, he was undeniably endowed with exceptional powers of observation and craftsmanship. It was because of his work during this campaign of 1870, that Loir was elected to be the official painter of the Boulevards of Paris. This boosted his career and reputation. In 1879 in was awarded the Bronze medal from the Exposant Fidele des Artistes Francais.(cosmopolitanart.com)
Oil on canvas, c 1885
View of the beach and Casino at Dieppe
Oil on canvas, c 1886
Luigi Loir also produced advertising materials for the confectioner Léfevre-Utile and for the burgeoning railway networks which took the inhabitants of Paris to fashionable seaside resorts. Loir’s private patrons were as eager for his sparkling views of holiday places as they were for his views of Paris. He thus explored many of the picturesque coastal towns of Normandy and Brittany, painting Boulogne, Dinan, Tréport and Etretat, among others.
This charming view of Dieppe, above, was probably inspired by the opening of the new Moorish-style Casino in 1886. Loir excelled in working upon a comparatively small scale, as in this work. The Casino is painted with miniaturist delicacy, while the figures are brilliantly characterized in a few deft strokes, giving the sense of the bustle of the beach. The eye is swept across the foreground by alternating touches of pink and blue in the costumes; two little girls in blue dresses and white pinafores hold the centre of the composition. Contrasting with the man-made pleasures of the resort are the imposing cliffs and a sky full of clouds evoked in subtle hues.
Dieppe became fashionable in 1824 when the Duchesse de Berry, daughter-in-law of Charles X, summered there. In the later nineteenth century it attracted many artists and writers, including Jacques-Emile Blanche, Proust, Guy de Maupassant, Swinburne and Oscar Wilde. The Moorish Casino, owned by Isidore Bloch, was the third to be built on the site. Apart from gaming rooms, the complex had a concert hall, baths, restaurant, shops, gardens and space for children’s entertainments. It was replaced by an Art Deco Casino in 1926.(richard-green.com)
Boulevard Henri IV, Sunset
Painting - watercolor
Gouache, c 1899
Les Grands Boulevards
Oil on canvas
Luigi Loir gained innumerable distinctions and medals, for instance the Gold Medal at the Exposition Universelle in 1900, and was awarded the Légion d’Honneur in 1898 by the French government.
Loir (who after his very early work always signed in capitals Loir Luigi) obtained a wonderful atmosphere in his watercolors, combining enough detail with a genuine wash watercolor feel to please purists. He excelled in scenes at sunset, in snow, and particularly under grey skies which suited his love for soft atmospheric effects. He usually employed a low horizon which intensified the lines of perspective - his low viewpoint brings us into the scene, as if we the viewer are on the street. His paintings are represented in a number of major museums, including the Palais de Beaux-Arts in Paris, the Musée de Petit-Palais in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Prague Museum, the Tretiakoff Museum in Moscow and the Galerie Moderne in Vienna. His oils have fetched high prices at auction, notably £98,300 for one depicting Les grands boulevards, Paris, above.