By the late 1870's, Paris had once again established itself as one of the leading centers for trade and culture in Europe. The Franco-Prussian war, the Fall of the Second Empire and the Commune had exhausted the city and certainly changed its glittering profile for a short while. The establishment of the Third Republic reintroduced political stability to the nation and active city life of Paris once more resumed in the newly finished and broad Boulevards. The city came back to life and its streets were again filled with Parisians from all social backgrounds. Elegant carriages roamed the streets while street vendors busily sold everything from books to passing strollers and sidewalk cafes as well as restaurants would fill up with artists, celebrities and tourists. The need to feed such a growing city and its emerging middle and upper classes required massive catering. Carried by peasants and local farmers, fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers flowed daily into Paris to please the palates of the city's inhabitants. All this growing activity provided an abundant environment for any contemporary artist in search of a subject matter.
Gilbert was considered the pre-eminent painter of the place du marché. He achieved considerable success and firmly established his reputation at the 1880 Salon when he obtained a second class medal, critical acclaim and a state purchase for his painting now at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lille.
The year 1878 was a tremendously important and successful one for Gilbert as, following the exhibition of two of his significant compositions at the Salon, he received tremendous critical acclaim. At the Flower Market, from the same year, captures one of the flower markets that appeared daily across the city. The carefully arranged and organized fresh flowers, either cut or in terracotta flowerpots, are displayed with the hope of catching the attention of a customer. Here, the artist amply illustrates and juxtaposes the different strata of Parisian society from the working class flower seller here to make a sale to the elegant lady who is inspecting, selecting and purchasing.
Gilbert's vibrant image is enhanced by his realistic sense of detail and close observations of nature. A master of still life and textures, he has paid meticulous attention to a myriad of detail. Whether focusing on a rose stem, the weave of a basket, or the shop's cloth canopy, his work is a tour de force- a demonstration of the varying reflections of light on different surfaces.