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Eugène Galien-Laloue: The Urban Impressionist


La Place du Châtelet, ca. 1941





Born in Paris on December 11, 1854, Eugène Galien-Laloue was a French landscape and urban street painter. He worked under many aliases but is known mainly as Eugène Galien-Laloue. He painted mainly in gouache, taking advantage of the medium's quick drying time to produce more work while maintaining the painterly qualities that his astute Impressionism required. Although often imitated over the years by lesser artists, Galien-Laloue's work is strikingly clean and crisp...with careful lines in perspective, beautiful skies, and fashionable figures depicted in all seasons and all times of day.


In La Place du Châtelet above, Galien-Laloue's immediacy and freshness of the moment is so crisp and real you can almost smell the air. That contrast of hazy cool sky with the warm glow of the Théâtre du Châtelet's lights is captivating. Galien-Laloue paints the winter trees with very liquid brushstrokes while the figures have the exact sensation of movement without attention to details or expressions. Far off to the right is La Fontaine du Palmier that Galien-Laloue appears to have only half-finished, curiously. I like the way he uses his highlights as bright globs of warm white carefully accented along the architecture of the theatre and as reflective puddles across the slick streets. The streets themselves are an incredible cool grey reflecting the sky above. Toward the left Galien-Laloue creates the illusion of movement with a swathe of purple that fades into perspective. Looking beyond the trees on the right that similar purple hue fades into the background. Galien-Laloue immerses us completely into the moment of this busy Parisien street with more acuity and grace than any camera ever could.






Eugène Galien-Laloue - Soirée en Normandie
Evening in Normandy


Beautiful light. Those clouds appear to be on fire against that pale yellow sky. Galien-Laloue bathes this scene in a gentle warm light that is so inviting in the rustic agriculture of northern France. Even the greens are warm. Look at how Galien-Laloue depicts the road with deep cracks and pot holes while the figures ahead and the cattle are reflected in his brilliant cool light. The very French buildings are tainted with a warm glow across them that turns into once again a purple hue fading into the distance. Galien-Laloue understands light in a way here that is deeply intimate, transforming the ordinary into the most sublime.








The Moulin Rouge Evening, ca.1906

Galien-Laloue's reds are exaggerated here but the fun and spirit of this cool, rainy Paris night is eloquently captured. Look at the deep purple-blue skies that blur the architecture across the left of the composition. His figures stand tall and proud in a variety of colors and costumes. Again, those globs of white and pink punctuate the slick streets. Galien-Laloue captures a modern Paris in his day, with bright lights and colors among a well-dressed society, something that Paris still enjoys to this very day.










Place de la Republique in Winter, ca. 1900s

I love this painting. Crisp, sharp lines next to fuzzy trees, deep accents of greens and warm colors next to neutral tones of the architecture. The figures here have a range of rich browns in the palette that quickly identify them yet compliment the scenery simultaneously. The monument statue of Marianne in the center, normally the focus in most images, here blends in with the all the background elements yet Galien-Laloue intersperses the tall statue with white globs of snow. And the figures here have more facial expressions and distinctive body language. Hard to imagine that this peaceful district of Paris would become a modern conglomeration today for mourning and protest in our conflicted and complicated world.










Market

Dazzling color palette. Galien-Laloue takes full advantage of Autumn to explode those fiery warm leaves against a fairly neutral background with some dark accents. Galien-Laloue shows us a society that was very much pedestrian and not so much indoor, as our modern shopping world is. However, the outdoor flower vendors and markets still exist thankfully, and Galien-Laloue portrays them faithfully with his fresh eye. I like how the trees rise out of the edge of the composition—this really forces us to look down at the figures below. The architecture is more detailed in this painting also. Galien-Laloue reveals that even when figures are standing still they are always doing something.








La Gare De L'est

Love the dreamy soft edges of this composition. Like travelling in time to the early 1900's. Just look at how Galien-Laloue treats that sky with an eerie greenish glow that feels like impending rain, with a faint glow of sunshine off to the left. Of course, Galien-Laloue reflects this incredible tone in the streets below. The colors around the flower vendor seem muddied here yet it contributes to the varied character of architecture in this scene, and how Galien-Laloue uses bright highlights to signal the coming evening and its nightlife. The lone figure of the woman in the center, normally a taboo in composition theory, is so captivating here...who is she waiting for? This could be a scene from a movie. The simplest gestures are often the most intriguing.









Paris, La Porte St. Martin

Galien-Laloue's most vibrant piece of all displayed here. For the first time Galien-Laloue shows us cars down a busy street and well-dressed people shopping, where the stores take on a prominence instead of the usual rows of trees. Congestion seems to be the overall theme of this painting, and yet Galien-Laloue can't resist but reveal the inherent charm of a newly burgeoning modern society. I wonder if Galien-Laloue felt the encroaching sense of photography eclipsing the beauty of painting also.









Paris, Les Grands Boulevards


Galien-Laloue's use of atmospheric perspective and his fantastic greys, both above and below, make this an astonishing work. That sky is as real as it gets. The slick pavement and its darker toned reflections are incredibly perceptive. Anyone who understands colour mixing knows this is the triumph of a very skilled painter. Reds and greens are accented here in a way that leads our eye to the central figures, yet the way the figures move here keep us looking around the scene continually. Seeing these amazing works in person is the only way to truly do justice to analyzing them.







Paris

This is one of the most Romantic palettes of his entire work, in terms of brushwork and color. No clouds are depicted here, only a warm orange glow of the setting sun that reveals a more polluted landscape than before, yet treated with incredible sensitivity. Instead, Galien-Laloue treats the modern interiors with a fiery glow. Note the cars and the streaks of paint across the streets. For the first time the figures are painted in a very dark and monotone palette, in sharp contrast to the colorful costumes of his earlier works. The season is late Autumn, early winter and the trees are bare except for a smattering of leaves across the central trees.

Galien-Laloue witnessed the modern transformation of a changing Paris and a changing world, and captured this dearly in all of his work. Like all Impressionism, the social criticism of a modern world and its disregard for nature in lieu of consumerism and narcissism seems a hallmark of every society. The way that Galien-Laloue uses color and mood to narrate this change to his beloved Paris is very touching and comments on how much our world moves ahead with technology and progress while seemingly forgetting the values of the past. Galien-Laloue reminds us how change may be inevitable to society and how quickly we adapt and evolve to it, but if we lose sight of the everyday moments and the people that make up society, we stand to miss out on what it means to live.


Laloue00 c. 1920
Eugène Galien-Laloue, 1920

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