This focus invites you to relive the heyday of the French capital by taking a stroll through the Universal Exposition and lingering awhile in Paris, where Art Nouveau has made it the art capital of Europe.
Paris, showcase of the world
Universal Exhibitions of 1900
Universal Exhibitions, or world’s fairs, were all organized along the same lines. They allowed a wide public to see innovations in the fields of agriculture, industry and commerce. The first was held in London in 1851 : “The first world’s fair in France took place in 1855, and they were then held at regular intervals thereafter, in 1867, ‘78 and ‘89 and then in 1900. The 1900 world’s fair was distinguished by having a title. It was called ‘The 1900 Universal Exhibition: taking stock of a century’. In fact, since 1889 had been the centenary of the Revolution, the intention of exhibiting industrial, commercial and agricultural products was really to tell a story and describe how the Republic came into being. By 1900, the Republic was firmly established, there was no longer any concern regarding its legitimacy. So behind the idea of taking stock of a century was the idea of “taking stock of a nation”, as well as Paris’s desire to demonstrate that it was the capital of the world.”
The 1900 world’s fair was the largest ever to be held: it covered more than 200 hectares, or 500 acres, in the heart of Paris, and stretched as far as the Bois de Vincennes.
Le journal le mieux informé, c'est le Petit Journal. Quatre millions de lecteurs. "Exposition Universelle de 1900"
Paris Art nouveau
Stain glass for Fouquet's jewellery
Art nouveau jewels
Fire and metal
Paris, capital of the arts
Paintings and drawings
Paris played such a prominent role in the art world in 1900. In 1874, the first Impressionist exhibition turned academic art ideals on their head and led to the emergence of new aesthetic forms. As a result, all manner of genres and styles were coexisting in 1900.
Sculptures and decorative arts
The mythical Parisienne
Thes myth around “la Parisienne”
This myth that grew up around “la Parisienne” would attract women to France from all over the world: “While their husbands came to discuss business on the Old Continent, these women, mainly Americans, but women from South America too, went from one famous tailor, one major couturier, to the next. They visited jeweller’s shops, and went back home with clothes that only Paris was capable of creating. Not just outer garments, but shoes too, and underwear; all items that would appeal to women from throughout the world” explain the historian Dominique Lobstein
Paris of the Parisienne
Who are the Parisiennes
Paris on stage Paris, by night
Dominique Lobstein will now introduce you to the theme of this section of the exhibition: Paris by night: “For many years, night-time was associated with terror. But with the spread of electric lighting in Paris, the night was tamed. And with the danger that had previously prevailed disappearing, people began to move around a lot more at night. And 1900 was a period of great erotic euphoria in Paris. It was at that time that brothels came to the fore and when a number of shows started to flirt with eroticism. The development of cafés-concerts and certain dance halls, for instance, offered the public rather disreputable night-time amusements that brought together the upper middle classes, aristocrats and the working-class public alike.”
An Evening at the Pré-Catelan
Commandée par Léopold Mourrier, le propriétaire du Pré-Catelan, célèbre restaurant du bois de Boulogne ouvert en 1905, cette vaste composition offre une image tardive du Paris mondain de la Belle Epoque. On reconnaît au centre du tableau la seconde femme du peintre, le duc Hélie de Talleyrand-Périgord et, de dos, sa riche épouse américaine, Anna Gould, tandis que parmi les convives, comme alignés en vitrine, on distingue, attablé à droite, le plantureux marquis de Dion, pionnier de la fabrication automobile et député influent, posant à la croisée centrale, la belle Liane de Pougy et, assis à celle de gauche, l’aviateur brésilien Alberto Santos-Dumont. Que le commanditaire du tableau ait choisit ou non ces personnages, il dut en valider la présence, d’autant que la toile fut exposée au public du Salon de la Société nationale des Beaux-Arts de 1909. OEuvre ambitieuse par la taille et par une recherche fort originale de cadrage et d’éclairage, elle est significative de l’étonnant brassage social qu’offre le « Tout Paris » cosmopolite. Une toile mêlant ainsi des représentants de la puissance industrielle, de l’héroïsme sportif, de la vieille aristocratie et une demi-mondaine, n’aurait sans doute pas été concevable sous d’autres cieux. Plus encore que la manifestation du triomphe de la gastronomie et d’un art de vivre à la française, Un soir au Pré-Catelan marque un jalon de cette mythologie de la Belle Epoque. Proust en livrera une image sublimée au lendemain de la Première Guerre, dans sa description, en tout point similaire, de la salle à manger du Grand Hôtel de Balbec dans À l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs, comparée à « un immense et merveilleux aquarium » électrifié devant lequel se pressait comme à un spectacle la population invisible dans l’ombre.
Theater and cinema
“Paris offered its visitors a wide range of places of entertainment: a great many theatres – repertory theatres like the Comédie française, but also commercial theatres where lighter plays were staged. And there were other places as well, places where you could dance, places where acrobats performed, multi-purpose places. It was at this time that the Olympia was created, a hall that was completely adaptable. A variety of different shows were put on there. And in these auditoriums, they would also show short films. The first film was shown in December 1895, and cinema experienced exponential growth. At the Universal Exhibition of 1900, it became a very popular diversion frequented by Parisians and foreign visitors alike.”