Happy Bastille Day 2015

A small painting by American Impressionist Childe Hassam caught my attention this July 14, the national holiday  in France. Only English speakers call it Bastille Day. The French refer to Bastille day as “quatorze juillet” which simply means “14th of July. More formally, it’s called the ‘National Celebration’ or ‘National French Celebration’. 

Bastille Day, Boulevard Rochechouart, Paris, by Marie Wise after Childe HassamI painted Bastille Day, Boulevard Rochechouart, Paris after Childe Hassam’s small painting done in 1800-something. He must have set up his easel at street level on this boulevard where women were going to market and laundry was hanging in the windows. His brush strokes are rough and thick. The painting is quite small, only 9 inches wide by 7.5 inches tall.

It’s a simple but powerful painting. I love the colors. I tried to capture the impasto strokes, but it’s almost impossible to do that without actually seeing the painting, and I don’t happen to have it hanging in my house! I think it is in a private collection. I can’t find it on any museum websites.

It’s fun think about my French heritage and imagine living and working as a French artist. I think I was born in the wrong century.

Bastille Day commemorates the the storming of the Bastille in 1789, a prison in the centre of Paris. Although it contained just a few inmates at the time of the storming, the French people viewed it as a symbol of the abuses of the monarchy. Its fall was the flashpoint of the French Revolution. Like our country’s Independence Day, Bastille Day is the day France celebrates her independence.

Vive la France!