Wolfgang Beltracchi, 2018
Boulevard des Capucines on April 15th 1874
Artistic voice: Claude Monet, 1874, Paris
Oil on canvas, 119 x 88.5 cm

»The first photograph of a living person is regarded to be the famous view of the busy Parisian Boulevard du Temple by Louis Daguerre from the spring of 1838. As the exposure time of the daguerreotype was approximately 10 minutes, however, almost all the moving city dwellers disappeared like ghosts. The painting in Monet’s artistic voice is a response to Daguerre’s camera eye in the medium of painting, staging the hustle and bustle of passers-by in front of what is probably the most important photography studio, Studio Nadar on the Boulevard des Capuchines, with his own, Impressionistic eye. By depicting the front of the building, it also alludes to the technique of survey photography, whilst allowing it to blend in with the shimmering atmosphere of the metropolis. One of the balloons that the photographer used in his attempts to survey the world is entangled above the Nadar sign. Just as Nadar himself promoted the Impressionists, so they, and among them Claude Monet, were able to use the possibilities offered by photography to reflect their own methods and perspectives, whilst keeping both approaches separate. From the oft-vaunted competition between photography and painting, this representative form has become a recognition of the similarities: an impression of the combination of both media at the beginning of classical modernism.«

Professor Horst Bredekamp, Humboldt University, Berlin

The cartoonist, author, balloonist and photographer Félix Tournachon, known as Nadar, is one of the most colourful personalities of the 19th century. In Paris, he was acquainted with the bohemians and leading intellectuals, and created portraits of everyone who was anyone in his photo studio on the Boulevard des Capucines. There, on 15th April 1874, he hosted the first Impressionist exhibition. Monet had visited him beforehand to paint the boulevard. In Beltracchi’s painting, the view is reversed: it depicts the famous studio, with a balloon in the sky directly above it. This reveals an approach to viewing Impressionism: in terms of the structure of the image and the methodology, it can be regarded as an exploration of the new medium of photography.