After working on rural landscapes, Claude Monet returned to Paris in 1877 and made a dozen oil paintings of the Gare Saint-Lazare railway station in Paris. This was Monet's first series of paintings concentrating on a single theme. After considering working at the Gare du Nord, he sought permission from the director of the Compagnie des Chemins de fer de l'Ouest to paint en plein air, at the Gare Saint-Lazare.
The Impressionist paintings capture the smoky interior of this Paris railway station, in varied atmospheric conditions and from various points of view. The works were in part a response to the criticism of his painting Impression, Sunrise, which was exhibited at the First Impressionist Exhibition in April 1874, and also fashionable depictions of technical progress: the modern steam train and the newly extended iron and glass train shed at the station constructed by engineer Eugène Flachat.