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View along Quai du Louvre (today Quai François Mitterrand) down the Seine toward Ponte Des Arts with the Eiffel Tower in the distance, 1946.
View along Quai du Louvre (today Quai François Mitterrand) down the Seine toward Ponte Des Arts with the Eiffel Tower in the distance, 1946.Ed Clark—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
View along Quai du Louvre (today Quai François Mitterrand) down the Seine toward Ponte Des Arts with the Eiffel Tower in the distance, 1946.
Arc de Triomphe, 1946
A barge churns up the Seine past Notre Dame on a gloomy winter day in 1946.
A man exits a Paris Metro station, 1946.
The Arc de Triomphe, 1946
A young artist paints Sacre-Coeur from the ancient Rue Norvins in Montmartre, Paris, 1946.
Moulin de la Galette, Paris, 1946.
Paris' famed stalls along the Seine, 1946.
View across the Pont Alexandre III bridge toward the Grand Palace , Paris, 1946.
A small sister of the Statue of Liberty beside the Seine, 1946.
Paris street scene, 1946.
Near the Pont Neuf steps, Paris, 1946.
Scene on the Seine, 1946.
Parisian flower vendor on the banks of the Seine, 1946.
Pont Alexandre III bridge, Paris, 1946.
Conciergerie, Paris, 1946.
Rowboats on the banks of the Seine, Paris, 1946.
View of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Coeur, 1946.
Montmartre cemetery, Paris, winter 1946.
Passerelle Debilly bridge on a foggy winter day with the Eiffel Tower in the background, 1946.
View along Quai du Louvre (today Quai François Mitterrand) down the Seine toward Ponte Des Arts with the Eiffel Tower in
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Ed Clark—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
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Paris Unadorned: Black and White Portraits of the City of Light, 1946

In early 1946, photographer Ed Clark journeyed to Paris ("the grand courtesan of all cities," LIFE called the ancient town) to record the look and the feel of the French capital less than a year after the end of the Second World War. The pictures he made there chronicle not the cheerful, bawdy Paris of the popular imagination, but a place that, as LIFE told its readers, was a "grim and depressing disappointment" for any visitors expecting the Paris of Maxim's, the Ritz, The Folies Bergère, the Moulin Rouge and the city's other legendary, libidinous diversions.

The Parisians themselves, meanwhile, were "cold, hungry, confused and tired—above all, tired—too busy keeping themselves alive to bother much about entertaining. . . . [The typical American GI in Paris at the time] felt cheated. Where was the Paris he had heard about? Where were the naked women?"

The Paris [of Clark's photos] is the Paris of the Parisians—and of anyone else who will take her. She is unadorned, somber and beautiful. Most of the pictures were taken in mist or rain, when the sharp, clean lines of the city's spires and the bridges pierce through a curtain of gray. This is the Paris that neither Germans nor GIs could change. Even in the age of the atom bomb, she is as indestructible as the river.

For his part, like countless travelers before him through the centuries, Ed Clark fell under the spell cast by the great, gorgeous city. In fact, the Tennessee native once claimed that, at the time he got the assignment, "I didn't know where France was, let alone Paris."

But when he came upon a young painter in Montmartre (slide #6 in this gallery—Clark's own favorite photo from his entire career), he found it "so beautiful that I just started shooting."

Paris, LIFE magazine, March 1946 Ed Clark—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images 
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