André Devambez
The Charge

The Charge
André Devambez (1867-1944)
The Charge
1902-1903
Oil on canvas
H. 127; W. 162 cm
© ADAGP, Paris - RMN -Grand Palais(Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

La Charge [The Charge]


The Charge by André Devambez shows a confrontation between the forces of power and demonstrators. The political leanings of the latter is not easily identifiable : they may be anarchists or trade unionists, but they may as well be nationalists or opponents of Dreyfus, as the street represented (Boulevard Montmartre) and the date of the artwork would support.
More likely, Devambez aimed at showing the archetype of the demonstration and its confrontation with the forces of order. The nocturnal atmosphere, corresponding to an historical fact (people demonstrated in the evening, after the day's work), highlights the concern caused by "the age of crowds" studied by the sociologist Gustave Lebon. The police agents charge methodically, revealing a redoubtable efficiency. The painting was hung for a long time in the office of the prefect Chiappe (1927-1934), a promoter of order and a specialist of repression of street demonstrations. The high angle viewpoint may be compared with that of Monet in the Rue Montorgueil. It is organised around a dynamic diagonal, the crowd dispersing around an empty centre represented by the street lamp and the dramatic atmosphere of the grey and black street contrasts with the carefree, coloured and brightly lit ambience of the pavements.




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