Commissioned by Napoleon III, Baron Haussmann’s ambitious — and then controversial — renovation of Paris replaced a warren of medieval streets with the stately, monument-studded boulevards and parks so beloved today. Beyond its aesthetic aims, the plan sought to improve traffic circulation and public health and safety. Wide boulevards, moreover, lend themselves well to parades and not so well to rioters’ barricades.
A City Transformed: Photographs of Paris, 1850–1900 presents 30 images captured by Edouard Baldus, Charles Marville, and others charged by the Commission des Monuments Historiques with creating a visual archive of the capital at this pivotal time. Ostensibly documentary in nature, these technically masterful works have a beauty and poignancy that rise to the level of artistry.