While working for the Paris-Orléans railway during the 1860s, Jean Baptiste Armand Guillaumin was actively involved in the leading artistic circles. These two realms – the heady cafés and bars of the Parisian avant-garde and the steam and steel of the rail yard – come together exquisitely in Guillaumin’s work. Guillaumin, the son of a working-class family and always interested in the spaces inhabited and used by the working class, was drawn toward the depiction of the new residential and industrial areas on the outskirts of a rapidly expanding Paris.
Guillaumin’s concern was how to represent the new spaces on the fringes of Paris. He shows them as places of dislocation, uncertainty and ambiguity, where conventional distinctions between urban and rural, city and country are no longer clear. The painter’s short, punchy brushstrokes for the description of the path and vegetation, the difference in handling of paint for the modelling of the figure and the awkwardly placed, straggly tree give an image to these conditions.