Cycling at the end of the 19th centurye century: a familiar and established leisure

Cycling at the end of the 19th century<sup>e</sup> century: a familiar and established leisure

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  • La Saint-Vélo in Fontainebleau.

  • Bicycle race on the Grand Parterre.

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Title: La Saint-Vélo in Fontainebleau.

Author :

Creation date : 1893

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Raynaud-Sauvé collection

Storage location: Fontainebleau Municipal Library website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Picture reference: 06-523105

La Saint-Vélo in Fontainebleau.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

To close

Title: Bicycle race on the Grand Parterre.

Author :

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Raynaud-Sauvé collection

Storage location: Fontainebleau Municipal Library website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Picture reference: 06-523089

Bicycle race on the Grand Parterre.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Publication date: June 2011

Historical context

The age of photography, the age of the bicycle

From the end of the 1880s, the bicycle became a familiar object, anchored in practices and representations. If it is not yet the popular hobby that it becomes in XXe century, it was widely adopted by a "bourgeoisie" with increasingly vast contours. Technical improvements and the development of the bicycle industry, races (for amateurs and professionals) reported and organized by the press (generalist or sports), the birth of numerous clubs and the development of bicycle tourism are all markers and challenges. tools of this important promotion.

At the same time, photography was also entering its "golden age". Clichés of all kinds are multiplying, which increasingly disseminate snapshots of the "modern" era, in black and white. In this regard, Saint-Vélo in Fontainebleau and Bicycle race on the Grand Parterre, both taken in the 1890s, are typical examples of these new images that signify and represent their time.

Image Analysis

The attraction of cycling

Saint-Vélo in Fontainebleau refers to a day organized once a year by the town hall (visible on the right). On this occasion, bicycles are made available to residents and activities are offered. By favoring the depth of field offered by the perspective of the main street, the photographer shows the excitement generated by the event, since, opposed to the relative emptiness of the rest of the avenue, the concentration of people is remarkable. Fans emerge from the town hall with their bikes, ready to take to the city.

Bicycle race on the Grand Parterre shows another event related to cycling. Visible in the background, the castle, emblem of the city, seems to patronize the event. The officials took their places under a large canopy set up for the occasion at the edge of the "track". The other spectators stand on one of the stairs that border the Grand Parterre. Dressed in their sports gear, the riders are still balanced, but the start has probably just been given, as the white smoke and the official waving his flag indicate.

Interpretation

Fontainebleau, by bicycle

These two images come from the Raynaud-Sauvé collection, made up of numerous photographs devoted to the events that punctuate the life of the city. Celebrations, inaugurations and novelties (such as the electric tramway) are thus recorded in a series of documentary and historical value. Some of these clichés, like Saint-Vélo in Fontainebleau and Bicycle race on the Grand Parterre, also serve as a postcard, thereby acquiring commercial and promotional value.

Inhabited by a fairly wealthy population, tourist destination of the Parisian bourgeoisie for its castle and its forest, with many walking paths, Fontainebleau quickly became a stronghold of the new leisure activity of cycling. From the 1880s, clubs, tourism organizations and even the City (see the town hall in Saint-Vélo in Fontainebleau and the flags in Bicycle race on the Grand Parterre) organize “bicycle” activities or larger competitions such as Paris-Fontainebleau.

The two photographs reveal a familiar and instituted leisure activity, framed and encouraged by the economic and political powers. So Saint-Vélo in Fontainebleau, where the bicycles seem to "come out" of the official building adorned with the symbols of the Republic and the city (flags and emblems), almost suggesting that the bicycle is a child of the regime or at least a symbol of the times. Whether near the castle (Bicycle race on the Grand Parterre) or in the streets (Saint-Vélo in Fontainebleau), the bicycle is a lasting part of the landscape and the practices of the place. Fontainebleau thus prominently illustrates “the time of cycling”.

  • Fontainebleau
  • bike

Bibliography

Alain CORBIN (dir.), The advent of leisure (1850-1960), Paris, Aubier, 1995.Pryor DODGE, The great history of cycling, Paris, Flammarion, 1996. Annick NOTTER and Jean-Claude POLTON, Fontainebleau, son castle and its forest: the invention of tourism (1820-1939), Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2007.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "The bicycle at the end of the XIXe century: a familiar and instituted leisure ”


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