first things first, if you said "Happy Bastille Day" to a Frenchmen, they wouldn't know what you were talking about. In France it is know as La Fête Nationale du 14 juillet, where every corner is decorated in bleu, blanc et rouge, the ball at the local fire station is the hottest ticket in town (then again when wouldn't it be) and Champagne flows like water.
You can walk through most of the museums in Paris and come across at least one painting that is depicting a tricolour, waving in the air. Delacroix and his Liberty Leading the People, Van Gogh hoisting the bleu, blanc, rouge on top of Le Moulin de Blute-Fin but one of my favorites can be found inside the Musée d'Orsay by Claude Monet.
La Rue Montorgueil à Paris fête du 30 juin 1878. Like Delacroix's Liberty, Monet's painting also is not depicting La Fête Nationale. In June 1878 the state declared 30 June a holiday to celebrate "work and peace" and the renaissance of France after the war of 1870. In the midst of the Universal Exhibition in Paris, Parisians were asked to decorate their houses with flags and bunting. Claude Monet was walking the streets of Paris and said to his friend and art dealer René Gimpel "The first 30th of June national holiday, I was walking with the tools of my trade in the Rue Montorgueil; the street was bedecked with flags and there were huge crowds; I spotted a balcony, asked if I could paint from it. I could. Later, I came down incognito!"
How quickly did he paint this and how long did he stay on the residents balcony? Could you even imagine sitting there watching Claude Monet paint? He was very well known by 1878 and the Impressionist exhibitions were in full swing and six years after his Impression, Sunrise gave the movement it's name. Did he finish the painting in one day, that is not known. But he did paint a second one from a balcony on the nearby Rue Saint Denis on the 29th or 30th. The Rue Saint Denis 30th juin 1878 is quite similar but does show a more of a chaotic scene. It looks like the real party was on Rue Saint Denis.
In 1878 La Fête Nationale du 14 juillet was yet to be a holiday, it was not declared the national holiday until 1880. But the first La Fête Nationale was held in 1790, a year to the day of the Storming of the Bastille. A large party was held on the Champ de Mars in 1790, far outside the city of Paris that lasted for days that included a feast with wine, fireworks which of course leads to people running nude through the streets. Today there will be the same party on the Champ de Mars, but unlike 1790 it is in the shadow of Madame Eiffel. I am sure there will be a few of those naked folks as well.
When you are in Paris, the Musee d'Orsay is a must see. And here is a little tip, as soon as you walk in go straight to the very top floor. That is where all the Impressionist are found as well as the amazing clock you can look out and see an amazing view of Paris.
Vive la France! Allez les Bleus