Last month I attended an exhibition in Paris called Paris 1900. This exhibition took us through all the major themes of the city during this century. These ranged from night life to the art scene of this era, taking us on a alternative journey through Paris.
The exhibition itself, held in Paris’ Petit Palais, had a air of class to it. The way it was set out over six rooms each starting with the title “Paris window on the world” which is a reference to the Exposition Universelle. Each room included both 3D and 2D objects and art and enticed the viewer to take a journey, that those would have taken had they visited Paris at the time, this was enhanced by the surrounding decors in each section.
The first room was centred around the theme of transport and architecture. In this room we got to see the different types of architecture and transport. We got the chance to see the great architectural endeavors on this century in detailed drawings and stages. We also could study the entrance to a metro in the style of the period of which some still exist today on the streets of Paris. This also gave us the opportunity to discover the metro and some of its earliest designs.
The following room was based around Art Nouveau . The space was filled with sculpture and pattern which dominated during this period. The room was clearly well thought out as it included not only glass cases for more fragile sculptures but also furniture and wall tapestries to give the viewer a feel of how an interior would resemble during this century. However something that shocked me was how artistically beautiful these pieces of furniture are. In comparison with the flat pack modern look that we try to accomplish today, the Art Nouveau seems so well crafted and detailed. It is a shame that it is not as commonly seen in the 21st century because it is just as elegant but looks more carefully thought out and put together.
Paris was at the centre of Fine Arts and this was what was exhibited next. We had the chance to see all kinds of paintings and sculptures from a wide range of artists who were at the forefront during the 1900’s: Cézanne, Monet, Renoir, just to name a few. Although the room was not so spacious, the way that each piece was exhibited did not make the room feel small and cramped, in fact each piece had its own space to breathe. The lighting added to the quality of the paintings and sculptures, in a way that did not overpower but did intensify the experience for the viewer. We were not blinded by the light but it was not so dark that we could not appreciate the pieces.
In the next room we were introduced to the fashion of Paris. Fashion was a big part of Paris during this era and it is still known today as one of the capitals of fashion. Along with artworks displaying the milliners and dressmakers errand girls of this industry, we also got to look at the clothes on mannequins which were displayed in glass cabinets throughout the room. I found all of the costumes of this period extremely elegant, they all has an air of class to them which was only enhanced by the surrounding of the Petit Palais. You could see by just looking at the clothes how much care and also hand-stitching had been put into them. Just as we have seen in all the other rooms, the 1900’s was very much a period of sophistication in art, interior, city life and now of course fashion.
The last two rooms of this fantastic exhibition were all about the entertainment of Paris.The night life of Paris was a key factor that attracted people to the city: the Moulin Rouge, Le Chat Noir, being the two most popular locations. Opera, ballet, circus and cinema were also gaining popularity and there was emerging a darker side to the nightlife of Paris: drugs and brothels. These two rooms showed mainly photographs of the events and and advertisements which were published throughout this period. There was also a showing of A Trip to the Moon by Georges Méliès, which is a well known short silent film created in 1902. In between these two rooms, a window painting that lights up in colour had been fitted to fit the window. The image depicted the electricity building of Paris. It was absolutely stunning and possibly the piece that I will remember the most from the exhibition itself.
Overall I thought the exhibition was really fantastic. It took us through a complete journey of Paris during the 1900’s bringing together a range of different aspects that made up this classy, sophisticated society. I felt the curation as a whole, worked extremely well and made the journey easy to follow and accessible whilst keeping a strict but methodical order to the rooms. As I stated previously for the lighting, it was very well done and not only in the Fine Arts room but throughout every object and piece could be clearly seen and the lighting did not tire nor overpower the viewer. I was pleased I got the chance to see this wonderful exhibition and in such a culturally rich city. I would definitely recommend this exhibition as it gives art history as well as context which is something that really interests me as an artist.
Petit Palais announcement for the exhibition: http://www.petitpalais.paris.fr/en/expositions/paris-1900-city-entertainment