From the series Etchings of Paris
In 1848, Charles Meryon retired from his eleven-year service in the French Navy in order to initiate a second career as a professional artist. He preferred painting; however, after receiving a diagnosis of color-blindness he turned instead to printmaking. One of his earliest efforts in this direction was a series of twenty-two prints titled Etchings of Paris. Executed between 1850 and 1854, as a group these technically accomplished intaglios represent the first major achievement of the French etching revival, but today they are equally admired for poetically capturing details of the city that were soon to be lost through Baron Haussmann’s transformation of Paris. The Notre Dame pump house, which had drawn water from the Seine to supply many of the fountains in Paris since the 1670s, was torn down in 1858.
Meryon described the image in a letter he wrote to a colleague in June 1853, not long after the print’s completion:
This etching of La Pompe Notre-Dame gives as nearly as possible a faithful view of this structure which it is said is shortly to be demolished. Nevertheless I have permitted myself a certain freedom in depicting it, as I desired to minimize its heavy appearance by modifying certain details. Thus the towers of Notre Dame stand slightly higher above the houses than they do in reality; but I consider these licenses permissible since it is, so to speak, in this way that the mind works as soon as actual objects which have arrested its attention have disappeared from sight.