Maximilien Luce, along with Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, Odilon Redon, and Henri-Edmond Cross, founded the Salon des Indépendants in 1884. Luce would have seen Seurat's development of divisionism and his important works Baignade à Asnières, 1883-84 (De Hauke, no. 92; National Gallery, London), exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants of 1884, and La Grande Jatte, 1884-86 (DH., no. 162; Art Institute of Chicago), exhibited at the eighth and final Impressionist exhibition in 1886. Luce himself began to experiment with the divisionist technique, and his La Toilette (Bazetoux, no. 562; Petit Palais, Geneva), painted in 1887, was shown at the Salon des Indépendants of that year and caught the attention of Camille Pissarro, Signac, and the critic Félix Fénéon. As Luce adopted the divisionist brushstroke, his color tones became clearer and brighter, and his compositions became flatter, suggesting a familiarity with Japanese prints.
Born and raised in working-class Montparnasse, Luce favored urban scenes, unlike many of the Neo-Impressionists. His preferred subjects included manual workers, views of the rooftops, and the general bustle of the street, such as in Paris, Le pont de l'Archevêché. At first glance, the painting seems to highlight the elegant, refined side of Paris, in which the bourgeoisie promenade along the river. However, a closer look at the figures reveals their diversity; some figures in the foreground appear elderly and others appear to be laborers--overall Luce gives the impression of a seamlessly blended crowd of characters. This diversity concurs with Luce's own politics, as he was a staunch anarchist and a champion of the working class.
Thoroughfares of traffic along the Seine, and specifically bridges, would ultimately become one of Luce's signature subjects. In 1899, Luce embarked on a series of paintings viewed from the Quai Saint-Michel--as Henri Matisse would also do--which have been considered among the most ambitious and successful examples of his career. Philippe Cazeau writes, "Certain canvases from 1899 to 1900, for example La Seine au pont Saint-Michel, are a happy compromise between divisionism and... impressionism" (P. Cazeau, op. cit., p. 108). For Luce, bridges were the perfect emblem of both the active pace of urban life and the diverse composition of the Parisian population.