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Title: View of part of the port and quays of Bordeaux: known as Les Chartrons and Bacalan.
Author : LACOUR Pierre (1745 - 1814)
Creation date : 1804
Date shown: 1804
Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0
Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas
Storage location: Bordeaux Museum of Fine Arts website
Contact copyright: © Photo from the Bordeaux MBA - Photo L. Gauthier
Picture reference: 91.11.11
View of part of the port and quays of Bordeaux: known as Les Chartrons and Bacalan.
© Photo from the Bordeaux MBA - Photo L. Gauthier
Publication date: March 2016
Between 1804 and 1807, the port of Bordeaux experienced a relatively prosperous period compared to the dark years of the Revolution. However, a decisive turning point came in 1807, bringing this parenthesis of prosperity to a close.
In the very first years of the XIXe century, Pierre Lacour, eager to paint the port of his native town, chose to represent the new districts of Chartrons and Bacalan. It was in the Chartrons that the English, Irish and Germans settled who were to be at the origin of the development of the Bordeaux wine trade and armaments to the Islands.
Lacour places as much importance on what happens on the water as on what happens on land, hence dividing the picture into two roughly equivalent parts. Before starting his painting, the painter observed all this activity on the spot and made many sketches from which he will draw these silhouettes full of movement and truth.
In addition, he proves to be a wonderful landscape painter, sensitive to the changing nuances of the river water and the immense sky, mixing truth and poetry in his portrayal of the city. Lacour shows himself to be a good observer of the activity of the port and the architecture of the city and an ethnographer attentive to different social categories and to the infinite variety of professions. From this point of view, his painting is a sort of photograph of the port in 1804.
On the left Lacour represents the Fenwick hotel, built in 1795, from which the row of houses of the XVIIIe century following the curve of the river.
The walkers are numerous, mixed crowd, all social classes combined. Elegant riders rub shoulders with the herdsman on the slow sled; bourgeois on a walk pass a basket rack; a couple who may have recently arrived in town to look for work has just passed a beggar to whom two young children from well-off families give charity. In this anonymous crowd, Lacour introduces portraits of identifiable characters, including himself and his two children.
On the banks of the river, the workers are busy. Shipwrights refit the half-overturned hull of a canoe. Lacour painted the damaged boat, taking care to differentiate the newly placed boards which are lighter. In front of the canoe two women are chatting while collecting in their aprons the wood chips which have fallen from the plane.
On the quay a carter, whip raised, encourages his horses harnessed one behind the other to a cart heavily laden with sandstone cobblestones arriving from Dordogne by the river. A little further on, you can see the cut stones intended for the construction of buildings and the barrels that are rolled on the quays. The unloading continues beyond the concession building.
The activity of the port is just as hectic: men work on a large flat-bottomed boat called a lighter, which is used to unload ships in the harbor. A platform supports the gangway which allows the staves to be unloaded, boards intended for the cooperage. The barges are loaded with freestone and barrels collected in the small river ports of the Médoc. The incessant comings and goings of the canoes ensure the transport of quality travelers between the city and the large boats anchored in the middle of the river.
Both landscape and genre scene, this painting offers an interesting vision of Bordeaux society in the 1800s and testifies to a prosperity comparable to that experienced by the port during the 18th century.e century. But if Lacour had painted this picture a few years later, the result would have been quite different. In response to the continental blockade imposed by Napoleon, England decided to respond with a maritime blockade, the consequences of which will be severe for the city. Thus in March 1808, the American consul stationed in Bordeaux wrote in a letter to his government: "Grass grows in the streets of this city. Its splendid harbor is deserted except for two fishing schooners  from Marblehead and three or four empty ships. "But, beyond the consequences of this blockade, the port of Bordeaux, despite the wine and arms trade it developed, suffered throughout the 19th century.e century the decline of trade in colonial products (indigo, tea, coffee, oil, etc.) without being able to really convert to that of products linked to it (cotton, coal, iron).
- english navy
Francois-George PARISET History of Bordeaux volume III “Bordeaux in the 18th century”, Bordeaux, Fédération historique du Sud-Ouest, 1968.The port of Lights. Painting in Bordeaux, 1750-1900 exhibition catalog, Bordeaux, William Blake & Co. Ed., 1989.Francis RIBEMONT The Port of Bordeaux seen by painters Bordeaux, L’Horizon chimérique, 1994.
1. Lightweight building, with two masts, fitted with auric (quadrilateral-shaped) or triangular sails.
To cite this article
Agnès BIROT, "View of part of the port and the quays of Bordeaux: known as Les Chartrons and Bacalan"