If you need an excuse to pack a bag and jump on the Eurostar this summer, an exhibition in Paris might tempt you to book a weekend break. Paris 1900: The City of Entertainment, running at the Petit Palais until 17th August, recreates the atmosphere of the Belle Epoque in the French capital with over 600 exhibits from the turn of the last century. The Exposition Universelle of 1900 was seen as heralding an era of modernity and showed the best examples of arts and crafts in the Art Nouveau style. The 2014 exhibition features a selection of the pieces from the original exhibition alongside other decorative treasures, impressionist paintings, Rodin sculptures and a gallery of Paris fashions.
51 million tourists visited the exhibition in 1900. New railway stations, including the Gare de Lyon, were built for the occasion and first Metro line was opened. The Grand Palais and Petit Palais were constructed and are still popular art galleries today. Industry and technology, as well as art, featured at the exhibition, where visitors were the first people to experience escalators and wooden moving pavements powered by electricity to carry them round the huge site. The French organisers wanted to highlight the dominance of French companies in the decorative arts with exhibits by designers and manufacturers such as Emile Galle, Edouard Colonna, Sevres porcelain and the Gobelins Tapestryworks. Other countries were invited by France to showcase their achievements and lifestyles in national pavilions, which were very substantial structures. Campbell’s soup won a gold medal, a Russian sparkling wine controversially won the Grand Prix de Champagne and the first “talking pictures” were shown. The whole exhibition was very expensive to stage and lost money, but it was a great spectacle.
In our Special Collections and Archives we have a special edition of Art Journal called Paris Exhibition 1900 (745.444.Art) which contains photographs of the site and a selection of the exhibits. The Studio magazine of 1901 also covered the exhibition extensively and includes a number of drawings as well as photographs and critical reviews. These can all be consulted in the Reading Room on the lower ground floor of the Aldham Robarts Library by arrangement with the LJMU Archivist.