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
This large painting was commissioned by Léopold Mourrier, owner of the Pré-Catelan, the famous restaurant in the Bois de Boulogne, which opened in 1905. It is a late image of Paris society during the Belle Époque. Recognizable in the middle of the painting, with the painter’s second wife, are Duke Hélie de Talleyrand Périgord and, with her back to us, his rich American wife Anna Gould. Among the diners, as if lined up in the windows, are: at a table on the right, the amply proportioned figure of the Marquis de Dion, a pioneer of car manufacturing and influential politician and, posing in the central bay, the very beautiful Liane de Pougy. In the left hand window sits Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont. Whether Mourrier, who commissioned the painting, actually chose these people or not, he must have approved of their presence, particularly since the painting was put on public display at the 1909 Salon de la Société Nationale des BeauxArts. The work is ambitious both in size and in its highly original framing and luminosity. It reflects the astonishing social mix of Parisian high society. It is unlikely that a picture featuring representatives of industrial power, sporting heroes, the old aristocracy and a demimondaine, could have been painted anywhere else but here. Above and beyond its depiction of the glories of gastronomy and French lifestyle, An Evening at the Pré-Catelan contributed to the mythology of the Belle Époque. Proust depicted a stylised version of it immediately after the First World War in his description, similar in every aspect, of the dining room of the Grand Hôtel de Balbec in À l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs (In a Budding Grove), which he compared to ‘an immense and wonderful aquarium’, against whose wall of glass the population, clustered invisibly in the outer darkness, pressed their faces to watch.
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.”