No. 299-300: Le Petit Palais et la Belle Époque
Kitcat was in town last weekend and since she is my “expo-kid”, we decided to make a leisurely visit to le Petit Palais and the wonderful exhibition ‘Paris 1900, The City of Entertainment’. I know I am a cliché, but I adore this period of French history, la belle époque, and turn-of-the-century Paris. I suspect there are many American Francophiles who do. If I had a time machine, I would slap on my button boots, slip on my pouter-pigeon blouse and trumpet-skirt, grab my feathered chapeau and set the dial for Paris, June 1900 and la Exposition Universelle…
Mais malheureusement, time machines are still a vision of the future, so an afternoon at le Petit Palais will have to suffice. Amazingly there are over 600 works on display in the gorgeous ‘small palace’ that was designed by Charles Girault for the exposition. I cannot imagine a more perfect venue than these halls where the hatted and coiffed western world came to discover what the new century held. It must have been a real lollapalooza!
The exhibition is organized into six ‘pavilions’ beginning with ‘Paris, window on the world’ featuring Gare de Lyon, Gare d’Orsay and Gare des Invalides, as well as Hector Guimard’s fabulous métro entrances. The expo ends with two pavilions focusing on the posh and wild world of entertainment on offer in Paris at the turn of the century—from opera to café singing, to Sarah Bernhardt and Debussy to brothels and circus acts, to everything else Baz Luhrmann would have us imagine in his fanciful film Moulin Rouge.
Filling the space in the middle are art nouveau posters and paintings, costumes, gowns, jewelry, everyday objects, objets d’art, sculptures, furniture, fine-arts, stained-glass windows, photographs and corridors filled with life-sized footage of revelers and curious fair-goers. A whole ‘pavillion’ is devoted to the myth of la Parisienne—the elegant Parisian women whose mystique still captures the imagination of women (and men) around the world.
Cézanne, Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, and Vuillard, are featured alongside Gérôme, Bouguereau, Gervex, Béraud, Degas, Besnard and, of course, Rodin and Toulouse-Lautrec…le Chat Noir, anyone?
In lieu of a vrai time machine, this marvelous time capsule housed at le Petit Palais until August 17 will provide you with your Belle Époque fix and dazzle you with the promise and creativity from a storybook era long gone.
Mais malheureusement: But unfortunately