Paris, the cultural capital of Europe during the fin-de-siecle, played an important role in the artistic life of Isaac Israels. As a young man Isaac regularly travelled to Paris with his parents and sister to visit the annual Salon des Artistes Français. The artist spoke French fluently, apparently with a typically Parisian accent. In June 1903 Israels left Amsterdam for Paris where he was introduced to the important fashion-house Paquin. Isaac was often inspired by the beauty of the young 'Parisiennes' whom he encountered in parks like the Bois de Boulogne as in the present lot, but also on the Champs Elysées, on the Place Vendôme and in the café-chantants like the Moulin Rouge and the Moulin de la Galette. In his Parisian period he turned his impressions of the Parisian atmosphere into a large number of dynamic paintings, watercolours, pastels and drawings. This period may be considered the finest of his career.
The present lot is an excellent example of his Parisian style. The light palette and rapid treatment of the subject matter are stylistic elements that were used by the French Impressionists, who led Isaac to change his palette. However, his main focus was on subject matter. To him, the characteristic portrayal of a situation remained the most important. The present pastel, executed with graceful lines and broad areas of colour, is an exemplary work from this period. Israels' biographer Anna Wagner, referring to his Parisian pastels, writes: 'Zijn pasteltechniek ontwikkelt zich in deze jaren tot grote hoogte. Het lineaire element verzaakt hij daarbij niet. Naast met breed krijt geschetste vlakken komen vele speelse lijnen in de werken voor; soms is bijvoorbeeld van twee meisjesgezichten in eenzelfde pastel, het ene geheel met scherpe omtreklijnen getekend, terwijl hij het tweede de ronding van het gelaat geheel door gedoezeld krijt tot stand is gekomen' (see: Anna Wagner, Isaac Israels, Rotterdam 1967, p. 40).
The portrayed Girls strolling in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris (recto) and the Girls sitting on a beach in the park (verso), characterizes all the elegance and beauty of Parisian city life around the turn of the century, making the pastels 'modern' in Baudelaire's sense of the word. It is precisely a harmonious vitality that Israels achieves and makes tangible in the present painting.