Le Petit Palais always has great exhibits in the summer. This year is no exception. Until August 17, 2014, the exhibit “Paris 1900, La Ville Spectacle” shines the light on l’Exposition Universelle that kicked off the 20th century in grand style. The whole world was looking to Paris as the city of luxury and style. More than 600 works – paintings, souvenirs, costumes, posters, photographs, film, furniture, jewelry, and sculptures – immerse the visitor in Belle Époque Paris. Paris invented itself as the most innovative, effervescent, elegant city and books and films have been repeating this invention ever since.
Films were brand-new in 1900, and the exhibit uses this new media to take the visitor on the same trip through the exhibit the way it would have been experienced by one of the 51 million visitors to the original Expo. There are six “pavilions,” such as “Paris, vitrine du monde” (veetreen due mohnd) or the “shop window of the world.” The transportation innovations, such as the very first metro line, showed Paris as a modern city as well as a beautiful one. Another “pavilion” highlights Art Nouveau masterpieces by Gallé, Majorelle, Mucha, and Lalique.
Another section focuses on the flourishing of the Impressionists during this era. Works by Monet, Renoir, Pissaro, Vuillard, Maillol and Rodin represent the fine arts that flourished in Paris during those glittering years. And, of course, no exhibit about la Belle Époque would be complete without talking about fashion. La rue de la Paix was shopping central for cosmopolitan and fabulously wealthy women. Paquin and Worth were the couture labels to buy.
The final pavilions focus on Paris’ night life, from Sarah Bernhardt to the opera, from the sequins of the Moulin Rouge to the dark side of prostitution and drugs. The myth of life in la Belle Époque was followed by the horror of World War I. And, of course, the great jewel of the Exposition was le Petit Palais itself. Enjoy the beautiful architecture of this landmark building as you explore the exhibit and the galleries of the permanent collections.