In the middle of the 19th century, Paris underwent massive changes as it was transformed from a choked medieval city to the Paris we know today, with its grand boulevards, imposing apartment blocks, leafy parks, and far-flung suburbs. This unprecedented urban renewal project, spearheaded by Georges-Eugène Haussmann, was documented by the artists and writers who found themselves in the midst of these changes. Parisian Ecologies brings together prints and drawings from Pomona College’s collection—many from a significant gift to the museum in 1980—to highlight the tension between urban development and ecological disappearance from the 1850s through the end of the Belle Époque era in roughly 1914. Works include Démolitions pour le percement de la Rue des Écoles (1862) by Maxime Lalanne, which captures the Latin Quarter in rubble; Charles Heyman’s Rue de Bièvre(1911), which reveals how the Bièvre River became a new sewer system; and Félix Bracquemond’s Hiver (Loups dans la Neige), emblematic of the fantasy of escape entertained by many Parisians. Uncannily paralleling today’s debates about land use, gentrification, disease control, and environmental sustainability, Parisian Ecologies offers a history lesson as well as a demonstration of the wide array of printmaking techniques employed by the artists in their chronicles of the modern city.
To complement these historical works, contemporary artists Olga Kisseleva, Joel Ong, Mick Lorusso, Maru Garcia and Yogan Muller will offer performances, projections, and storytelling that connect ecology and the arts on Friday, April 8 at the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College.