Perfectly capturing the vibrant bustle of a Paris street, Le boulevard, executed circa 1890, is filled with the life of the city, while also showing Bonnard's increasing confidence in his art. There is a raw energy that Bonnard has translated onto the paper through the dark areas, themselves gently articulated and moderated through the use of the varying densities of the ink. This energy of the street is the perfect encapsulation of the enchantment that cosmopolitan life held over the Nabis. This is the Paris of the flâneurs - during this time, these young men wandered the streets of the city, apparently aimlessly, watching life go by and soaking up the sights, sounds and experiences that it threw up at them. This was a Paris of fashionable drifters, and amongst them one imagines Bonnard. Baudelaire's description of the flâneur seems equally applicable to the artist of Le boulevard: 'The crowd is his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes. His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd. For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite' (C. Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life, trans. J. Mayne, New York, 1964, p. 9). This walking of the streets influenced the subject matter of Bonnard's works. The scene in Le boulevard has the appearance of being a mere moment, something quotidian that Bonnard has decided to record in his art, lending the trivial a miniature apotheosis.
This use of the everyday world as subject matter was still considered a breach of the tenets of academic painting, and was considered almost vulgar. Behind it, one can see the influence of photography, another means through which a single moment could be captured for posterity. Photography's influence on Bonnard ran deeper, though: not only is the subject matter an apparent snapshot of everyday life, but the composition has an intense air of immediacy. Bonnard has managed to frame the scene in a way that appears almost unprepared, again reminiscent of a snapshot.
Another key influence in Bonnard's work from this period, and one which had a bearing on the composition of this work, was an exhibition of Japanese prints held by Siegfried Bing in 1890. Bonnard was deeply affected by this, and embarked on an intense study of Japanese prints and painting, often adopting similar techniques in his own work. The areas in reserve in Le boulevard appear to show this influence of Japanese art, be it the areas delineating the different people in the morass of the crowd, or the larger spaces, especially at the bottom left.