Jean-François Raffaëlli was a French painter, sculptor, and printmaker. Born in Paris April 20, 1850, Raffaelli showed an early interest in music and theater before becoming a painter in 1870. Raffaeli received his artistic training at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, where he enrolled in order to study under the painter Jean-Leon Gérôme. He remained exclusively a painter until 1876, when he did his first etching. From this time on, he was passionately devoted to printmaking, experimenting extensively with color etching.
The end of the 1880s marked a turning point in Raffaëlli’s work, when he transitioned from depicting the downtrodden working-class of Paris’ suburbs, to creating mainly urban landscapes. Views of Paris would begin to dominate his work in the mid-1890s. The artist almost exclusively chose to represent well-known monuments, such as Notre Dame, the Invalides, the Sainte-Chapelle, or locations like the Place Saint-Michel and Champs-Elysées.
Raffaëlli began exhibiting his paintings at the Salon de la Société des Artistes Français in 1870. With the support of the painter Edgar Degas, Raffaelli’s works were accepted at the fifth and sixth Impressionist exhibitions in 1880 and 1881, where he presented more than thirty-five works: paintings, watercolors, drawings, etchings, and drypoints. By 1891 he had also exhibited at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts.
In 1894-95, Raffaëlli planned to visit the United States for a week in order to attend the opening of an exhibition of his works at the American Art Association in New York. The week evolved into five months during which he traveled all over the country, giving lectures on art. He went back to New York at the end of 1899 to inaugurate an exhibition of his works at the Durand-Ruel Galleries. He was also a member of the jury for the Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh. Raffaëlli died in 1924, having gained a high degree of success in both Europe and America.
Just as Raffaëlli was obsessed with documenting the character of his figural subjects, as outlined in his treaty on caractérisme, in the bustling scene of our painting, he is compelled by the spirit of Les Champs-Élysées. He produced countless street scenes while he lived in Paris and many of them, and possibly this one, were exhibited at the Paris Salon between 1870 and 1909. Each is painted with verve and finesse – a showcase for his confident brushwork and sophisticated palette, both of which are economical here and emphasized by his spare use of paint.