Raffaëlli’s interest in the outskirts of Paris, the banlieue, was likely piqued as a result of his move to Asnières in the late 1870s. Once a rural town outside of Paris, Asnières benefited briefly from an upsurge in popularity as a resort destination for Parisians. Consequently, by the time the artist arrived in 1878, the town’s identity straddled ambiguously between the rural and the urban. While there, Raffaëlli committed himself to documenting the resulting suburban landscape and it is precisely this exploration which inspired countless artists and writers to examine the industrial banlieue of Paris in the 1880s. Notably, Vincent van Gogh openly praised and admired Raffaëlli’s work in Asnières. In a letter to his brother dated July 1885, van Gogh commended the artist's studies: ‘But he who paints, like Raffaëlli, the ragpickers of Paris in their own quarter has far more difficulties, and his work is more serious’ (M. Young, 'Heroic Indolence: Realism and the Politics of Time in Raffaëlli’s Absinthe Drinkers,' The Art Bulletin, June 2008, vol. 90, no. 2, p. 246).
It is interesting to note that the first owner of the present work was the artist Jean-Joseph Weerts, who clearly appreciated and admired the work. In celebrating the spaces and people at the edge of the city—‘where nothing ends, and where nothing begins’—Raffaëlli in many ways invented the suburban landscape. He succeeded in imbuing the seemingly down-trodden environment with a sense of reverie, of the ideal.
We are grateful to Galerie Brame & Lorenceau for confirming the authenticity of this work.