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  • Lisa

Zola's complicated life on rue de Bruxelles

Improbable Walks, Season 4, Episode 6: In this episode, we visit a Haussmann-style street where the great writer Zola once lived. Paris-born writer Emile Zola (1840-1902) was so poor as a young man, he pawned all his clothes and kept only a single bedsheet to sleep in. But by the time he moved into quiet rue de Bruxelles below Place de Clichy, he was a respected journalist and a prolific novelist. His defense of Captain Dreyfus led to his temporary exile--and possibly to his murder. Below, a studio portrait of Zola by his photographer friend Nadar; a close-up of Parisian painter & muse Victorine Meurent in Edouard Manet's famous naked picnic painting, Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (1863--and doesn't her expression make more sense, when you consider that she is posing with fellow artists, well aware of her double role as muse/model and as creator?!) The street shot is c.1900 and shows where Zola lived, rue de Bruxelles (the street doesn't look all that different today.) Next, a photograph of Zola's famous open letter, J'Accuse; an 1898 painting by Henry de Groux which is an emotional depiction of Zola vs the antisemitic mob; and finally a heavily repainted photo of Captain Alfred Dreyfus (1859–1935) when he returned, his name finally cleared.


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