In February 1897, Camille Pissarro began a series of paintings of the great boulevards of Paris. On 8 February he wrote to his son Lucien, who was in London:
I have booked a spacious room at the Grand Hôtel de Russie … from which I can see the entire sweep of the boulevards, almost as far as the Porte Saint-Denis – anyway, as far as the boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle.
Between 10 February and 17 April 1897, Pissarro painted fourteen views of the boulevard Montmartre as seen from the window of his hotel room, and two further canvases from the same vantage point, looking to the right to the Boulevard des Italiens. In these fourteen canvases, the artist is less concerned with topography than with observing and capturing the constantly changing effects of light and weather. In addition, the fixed viewpoint afforded by his hotel’s upper-storey window allowed him to record the ever-shifting configurations of the crowds and traffic below. In his letters, Pissarro describes being at his post from early morning until afternoon, recording the same scene each day, through winter into early spring.
This painting, which survives in pristine condition, was the first Impressionist work to be acquired for the National Gallery of Victoria, entering the Melbourne collection in 1905, only two years after Pissarro’s death.
Text by Sonia Dean from 19th century painting and sculpture in the international collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2003, p. 132