Strike in Saint-Ouen

Strike in Saint-Ouen

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Title: Strike in Saint-Ouen.

Author : DELANCE Paul-Louis (1848 - 1924)

Creation date : 1908

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 127 - Width 191

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - C. Jean website

Picture reference: 85EE263 / RF 1973-42

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - C. Jean

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

A town located in the industrial suburb to the north of Paris, Saint-Ouen at the beginning of the 20th century had many metallurgical workshops and companies from various sectors (wax factories, printing works, automobile construction, etc.). Political consciousness even allowed the establishment there between 1887 and 1896 of one of the first revolutionary socialist municipalities.
To the wave of strikes and the spectacular union push that the whole of France experienced in the years 1904 to 1907, the population of Saint-Ouen naturally contributed: more particularly in 1907, it was the bakers and the gas companies, then, at the beginning of 1908, it was the turn of the diggers on the Paris metro site. The strike is always punctuated by demonstrations and meetings, revolutionary songs and red flags, brandished to provoke the powers in place which have banned it.
This agitation sometimes leads to deadly violence: the bosses or the troops shoot at the demonstrators, causing deaths as in Cluses in 1904, in Longwy in 1905 or in Courrières after the disaster of 1906.

Image Analysis

The event reported by Delance is not precisely known. However, it is easy to identify the origin of the long procession which emerges from the horizon bristling with factory chimneys, to the right: two hearses from which we see the canopies and the coachmen emerging on either side of the central flag. The hypothesis is that this is the funeral of two workers killed during a demonstration. While protesters shout or sing to the right, others bow to the left as hearses pass by, lit by the sun's rays piercing the gray sky.
But the painter relegates the event to the background and leaves plenty of room for the old flag-bearer and more, because they look at the spectator, at the young mother and her child. This participation of old people, women and even babies is attested in all strikes and workers' demonstrations at the turn of the century.


In the extremely diverse subjects he deals with, Delance favors a representation with strong symbolic value. This painting is no exception. Its staging is totally centered on the red flag: it is the axis of composition as well as of manifestation. Its color is enhanced by that green and complementary to the background. Above all, it connects the generations, and it is in its folds that children are raised.
This painting certainly testifies to the tense social climate of these years 1904 to 1907, it also underlines its violence and radical options. A new phase of industrialization and the labor movement is inaugurated.

  • red flag
  • funeral
  • strikes
  • labor movement
  • workers
  • industrial Revolution
  • working class


Madeleine REBERIOUX, The Radical Republic? 1898-1914 Paris, Seuil, coll. "Points Histoire", 1975.Gérard NOIRIEL Workers in French society, 19th-20th centuries Paris, Seuil, coll. "Points Histoire", 1986.Michel WINOCK Socialism in France and in Europe, 19th-20th centuries Paris, Seuil, coll. “Points Histoire”, 1992. “The Time of the Class Struggle” special issue The story n ° 195, January 1996.

To cite this article

Pierre SESMAT, "Strike in Saint-Ouen"

Video: Faki paris saint ouen animation défilé 04032018