Paris Fortifications

  • About the work
    Country: Luxembourg
    City: Luxembourg
    Place: British Embassy

    An engaging composition, this painting by Christopher Nevinson presents an unusual view of Paris. A couple walk along part of the city’s fortifications, a bank of land which appears to emerge from the centre of the composition. It is as if we too are standing next to the artist looking at the scene. Beyond the grassy banks of earth are the smoking chimneys and distinctive tiled roofs and façades of the city’s buildings. 

    In 1913, when this painting was made, Nevinson was living in Paris and studying at the Academie Julian and the Cercle Russe, where Henri Matisse was teaching. During these years, just before the outbreak of the First World War, he befriended a number of radical artists, including Amadeo Modigliani (with whom he shared a studio) and several of the Italian Futurists, who would have a profound influence on the work he made over the coming years as an official war artist. 

    Originally designed in the early 19th century, the inner circle of the Paris fortifications was later supplemented with two more fortified rings. During the First World War, the fortifications protected the city from advancing German and Austrian forces. After the War, the innermost ring was demilitarised and passed to the municipal authorities. By the late 1930s, most of the surrounding buildings were demolished, and the fortifications eventually provided the foundations of the city’s ‘boulevard périphérique' (ring road) after the Second World War.

  • About the artist
    Born in London, Christopher R. W. Nevinson studied at St John's Wood and Slade Schools of Art. In 1912 he studied in Paris for a year. In 1914 he co-founded the London Group and issued a Futurist manifesto, ‘Vital English Art’ with Filippo Marinetti. In the First World War Nevinson served abroad with the Royal Army Medical Corps. In 1915 he participated in exhibitions of war art and Vorticism in London. His solo show at the Leicester Galleries (1916) received great acclaim. Nevinson became an Official War Artist in 1917. In the late 1930s, he was created Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur and an Associate of the Royal Academy. Suffering deep depression after the Second World War, he died in London in 1946.
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  • Details
    Paris Fortifications
    Oil on canvas
    height: 45.00 cm, width: 60.00 cm
    Purchased from Mayor Gallery, March 1974
    br: C. R. Nevinson
    GAC number