My Reminiscences of events, old and new, and travels, far and near
Sunday, December 30, 2018
Fast trip to 1900 Paris
Christmas was celebrated early, on December 23, 2018, at my daughter's house (both she and her husband had to work on Christmas Day.) On Christmas Day I was with my cats and tried to stay busy. I had set a small holiday area on the butcher block. The little tree under the globe turns and plays several Christmas carols.
While packing away gift wrapping for next year I found a very slim package between two wrapping papers. It was a present my husband had bought for me some years ago but had told me he had lost somehow, or misplaced and so never given to me. I opened it - surprise: a new present from my late husband, a pretty scarf.
A month or so ago I saw on the Net that a museum had an exhibition on Paris 1900. I did not know the museum and thought it must be in New York City. Then several days ago I read some more on this exhibition and wondered where in New York this museum was located, the Frist Museum. It turns out that it is the art museum in Nashville! When I searched the address I realized it was on Broadway, downtown Nashville, only 3 miles from my house ... so I decided to go and see the exhibition last Thursday December 27, 2018. I walked up and down the foyer, admiring the art nouveau details, the cast aluminum doors and grill works. This was originally the main post office for Nashville, built in the 1930s and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The white Georgia marble building with gray-pink Minnesota granite was renovated and converted into the Frist Art Museum when a new post office was built near the airport.
The exhibit named "Paris 1900: City of Entertainment" opened here on October 12, 2018 and will close on January 6, 2019. I am very pleased to have found out about it before its closure. It will travel to only three US cities: Nashville, then Cincinnati, Ohio from Mar-1 to May-12, 2019 and to Portland, Oregon, from June-8 to Sep-8, 2019. It was like a special present to me - a quick holiday trip back home to Paris. The brochure given at the entrance showed the groupings of the exhibit - 1) Paris, Showcase of the World, 2) Art Nouveau, 3) Paris the Capital of the Arts, 4) The Parisian Woman, 5) Traversing Paris and 6) Paris by Night. The exhibition, originally on view in 2014 at the Petit Palais, Fine Arts Museum of the City of Paris, brought over 250 objects - paintings, prints, decorative arts, sculptures, costumes and fashion accessories, posters, photographs, souvenirs, etc., usually only seen in several Paris museums. There were also videos of films of the period.
Paris, Showcase of the World - this was Paris at the turn of the 20th century during its prosperous golden age, with technological, political, social and economic advances and progress. After World War I, in retrospect, this period was called "La Belle Epoque" (the beautiful era) with nostalgia for its modernity, carelessness, luxury, peace and joie de vivre (and excess.) Paris attracted the whole world and was the undisputed capital of arts, elegance and pleasure. Baron Haussmann rebuilt the city with large avenues and parks - everything brightly lit and why it deserved to be called The City of Lights. At the time France was the world's biggest exporter of automobiles with 600 car manufacturers in France and 150 different makes. The Sacre-Coeur basilica of Montmartre was built then, the large department store Les Galeries Lafayette was opened. The first section of the underground Metro was built. Below are paintings illustrating that time by Louise Abbema (1858-1927) with Allegory of the City of Paris, 1901, standing up on the left. Two bottom right paintings by Henri Gervex (1852-1919) and top right is Jean Beraud (1849-1935) Le Boulevard Montmartre. (Click on collage to see better.)
The Frist brochure says "The International Exposition of 1900 was the culmination of these projects and showcased the cultural power of the French capital to the world." Two new rail stations were built - Invalides and Orsay. This landmark world exhibition of 1900, welcoming the new century, drew 51 million visitors during its 212 viewing days (when France only had 41 million inhabitants at the time.) It was a great moment of optimism and triumph for industry and technology. Vintage film clips show French President Emile Loubet opening the exhibition on April 14, 1900. People hopping on the revolutionary "moving sidewalks" are shown, too. France had invited foreign nations to participate and 43 of them did, building pavilions to showcase their countries. A huge print in the Frist museum gallery showed all these pavilions.
I assembled some postcards of these pavilions below. In the center is the monumental main entrance door into the 1900 Paris Exhibition. Click on collage to read the countries of the pavilions (Austria, Finland, Russia and Siberia, Italy, Serbia, Egypt, Mexico, English India, South Africa, Hungary, Ottoman Empire.)
There were many huge buildings too, called palaces such as the Palace of Electricity, of Metallurgy, of Education. The pavilions and buildings were temporary apart from the Grand Palais and Petit Palais (great and small palaces) which were built to stay in Paris as museums. Below are postcards of the Petit Palais on the left with the Grand Palais on the right, during the 1900 exhibition. Below each is the way they currently look with their interior below it.
The Electricity Palace is in the center of the collage below. There was also a reproduction of Medieval Paris, and more. I have read some people saying that the Eiffel Tower was built for this 1900 exhibition. No, Gustave Eiffel had his tower built between 1887 and 1889 as a centerpiece for the Paris 1889 World Exhibition celebrating the centennial of the French Revolution - it was inaugurated on March 31, 1889.
The 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris was a huge event. The following was not mentioned in the current Nashville exhibition, but I can add that Russia obtained the first prize for their sparkling wine thus defeating French competition for the Champagne Grand Prize. Rudolf Diesel, a German born in France, exhibited his diesel motor. Also, Campbell, the American company created in 1869, received a gold medal for their soup. This gold medal is still printed nowadays in the center of their soup can labels. Look at your cans!
Art Nouveau - In 1900, Paris was one of the European capitals celebrating this new art form. To access the 1900 Universal Exhibition a new ornate art nouveau bridge was built, named Alexander III in honor of the Tsar of Russia (his son, Nicholas II had laid the foundation of the bridge in 1896.) It had art nouveau lamps, nymps, cherubs and winged horses at each end. Below is a postcard from the 1900 exhibition, the bridge as it stands now and a painting shown in the Nashville exhibition, painted by Auguste Leroux (1871-1954.)
As an aside to the exhibit in Nashville, I can explain that in 1900 the French Government wished to affirm their "Franco-Russian friendship" (hence the construction of the Alexandre III bridge.) In addition to their pavilions, Imperial Russia was introducing their Trans-Siberian Express Railway. It was the world's longest railway (not finished until 1916.) At the Paris 1900 worlds exhibition Russia and French Wagon-Lits, the sleeping car company, let visitors experience the luxury on board real railway carriages which included an ornate Russian Orthodox church. Moving panoramas provided the impression of the journey going through the Urals, Siberia and Manchuria.
Some art nouveau pieces, ornaments, furniture, prints and paintings were exhibited here in Nashville. An art nouveau Paris Metro entrance was shown in a very large photograph covering a wall of a gallery. Click on collage below to enlarge. On left is art nouveau painting of the drowning of Ophelia by Paul Seck (1866-1924) and in the bottom a stained glass study by Alfons Mucha (1860-1939.)
I have many photos from the remaining sections: Paris the Capital of the Arts, The Parisian Woman, Traversing Paris and Paris by Night. This will be for my next post because it would make this post way too long. This post will be next year as 2018 is ending. For 2019 I wish you all much happiness, good health, fun and joie de vivre. (Click to enlarge to read cards.)