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View of Paris (Pont Alexandre)

View of Paris (Pont Alexandre)
oil on canvas
36 x 89 in. (91.4 x 226.1 cm.)
Painted in 1986.
R. Kaller-Kimche, Inc., New York
Private collection
By descent from the above to the present owner
L. K. Meisel, Photorealism Since 1980, New York, 1980, pp. 193, 366, no. 582 (illustrated).
L. K. Meisel, Richard Estes: The Complete Paintings 1966-1985, New York, 1986, pp. 105-106, 137, no. 141 (illustrated).

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Lot Essay

One of a trio of paintings of the Seine and its bridges that Richard Estes began in the eighties, View of Paris (Pont Alexandre) is a pristine panoramic sweep of sky and stone. Here, we see a Paris serenely barren. The absence of milling crowds allows us to concentrate on the cityscape itself - the architecture, the distant skyline over the glinting river, the street below trimmed with parked cars and boats - in a crisp detail that clears the mind like a splash of cold water.

Estes paints from a combination of photographs taken himself on location, cherry-picking details and making considerable changes to their compositional elements. By uniting modern technology to his pursuit of representational art, he situates himself within a rich tradition of painters such as Vermeer, Eakins, and Hopper, all of whom the artist admires. With each masterful, calculated brushstroke, slowly but surely, Estes’ painterly process elevates photographic reality to its ideal.

For the artist, bridges are “as city-specific as cathedrals,” each one unique to its history and cultural context (P. Sims, Richard Estes’ Realism, New Haven, 2014, p. 24). Here, however, the titular Pont Alexandre - widely regarded as the most opulent bridge in Paris - retreats to the far right of the picture. Estes directs the eye instead to the glowing stone parapet that flanks the water, its lines extending to the point where the sky and city skyline merge. Unlike his Williamsburg and Brooklyn Bridges, View of Paris (Pont Alexandre) deflects attention from the Beaux-Arts splendor of the bridge itself, turning our attention to the quiet majesty of the architectural features that integrate this structure with its city.

The scene skims over most other monuments, shrouding the equestrian statue of Simón Bolívar in the trees beyond and shrinking the Dôme des Invalides to a shadow in the distance. Instead, Estes compels us to contemplate the pictorial complexity of this behind-the-scenes view. Through a shift in perspective, Estes’ careful brushwork captures the beauty of the liminal, channeling the photographic eye to achieve a masterwork of painting.

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