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Paris La Nuit by Charles Courtney Curran, 1889. Terra Museum of American Art. Photo via Wikimedia Commons [Public domain].
I think there’s something quite fascinating about paintings of Europe by American artists. It’s interesting to compare how European cities look through American eyes with American scenes and with European artists’ representations of the same cities. Does a Frenchman represent Paris differently than an American? How does an American see London compared with how he sees New York? Since so many nineteenth and twentieth-century American artists visited and studied in Paris and other major European art capitals, such images are more common than one might think. This painting of Paris at night by Charles Courtney Curran (1861-1942)  is truly magical. By focusing on the narrow view of lights, people, and activity rather than a wider view of more permanent attributes like architecture, Curran presents a homey little scene that feels more small town than big city. Paris certainly didn’t feel much like this when I visited over a century later, but I’m intrigued by the possibility that it once did.

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