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Online Recorded Lecture

Belle Epoque Literature: From Romanticism to Naturalism. the birth of the scientific novel

Victor Hugo said: “Anyone who contemplates the depths of Paris feels invaded by vertigo. Nothing is more fantastic. Nothing is more tragic. Nothing is more sublime”. La Belle Epoque will produce writers as dissimilar as Colette & Marcel Proust, inaugurating de so called “modernism” in literature.

Belle Epoque Literature: From Romanticism to Naturalism. the birth of the scientific novel
Belle Epoque Literature: From Romanticism to Naturalism. the birth of the scientific novel

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On Demand

Online Recorded Lecture


About the Event

Victor Hugo returned to Paris after the Franco-Prussian war. He was sixty-eight years old. We will briefly study the oeuvre of Emile Zola, father of the “experimental novel” which almost represents an autopsy of emotions and feelings. This style can be found in “The Necklace” and in “Bel Ami” of Guy de Maupassant. His most famous novel is Madame Bovary which has been in the cinema since 1934. La Belle Epoque will produce writers as dissimilar as Colette and Marcel Proust, which inaugurates de so called “modernism” in literature.

delivered by Maria Chester 

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Also part of our series of art during the Belle Epoque, you can also watch the following talks:

MARCEL PROUST: A radiography of a broken soul.

Proust was born in the city of lights. He witnessed the birth of the Third French Republic (1870-1940), the construction of the Eiffel Tower, changes in fashion, motorcars and omnibuses crisscrossing Paris, the birth of “le Metró”, attended

several Expositions Universelle, went to concerts at Le Opera Garnier, installed one of the first telephones in his flat, had electric light which allowed him to write until very late (or very early). He had a very loving Jewish mother and a very strict father. He had a very bad asthma which kept him in bed for long periods. It is said that he was a hypochondriac but he was truly ill. He was welcome by the most important salonnières such as: the Comtesse Greffulhe, Winnaretta Singer and Mme. Strauss. We will remember him because of his monumental, pantagruelian oeuvre “A la Recherche du Temps Perdu”. He said: “The artist’s task is to release from the buried world of unconscious memories, the truly-living reality to which habit makes us blind.”

MARCHESA LUISA CASATI: the lady Gaga of La Belle Epoque and patroness of art and fashion.

Luisa Casati, la divina Marchesa said: “I want to be a living work of art” …and she was! She was the perfect product of La Belle Epoque, a tall and slim femme fatale who supported Futurists painters and many other artists: Giovanni Boldini, Romaine Brooks, Kees van Dongen, Fortunato Depero, Augustus John as well as fashion designers like Paul Poiret, Leon Bakst and Mariano Fortuny. She was Man Ray’s favourite model. She had the most fabulous palace in Venice, which was later Peggy Guggenheim residence. Dancers, politicians, artists, writers were invited to enjoy her soirees served by nude men gilded in glittering gold. She had a passionate romance with Gabriele D’Annunzio the famous Italian novelist, also egocentric and therefore a perfect match for her. Cartier designed jewels for her. Lalique created a parfum for

her. After the Black Thursday (October 1929) she went into bankruptcy and lived in Chelsea, London, where she died. She took with her: a black dress, a leopard skin coat, a new pair of false eyelashes and her stuffed pet Pekingese.

LA BELLE EPOQUE RHYTHMS: From waltz to tango

Since the Middle Ages, Paris was a centre of music production: choral music, ballets and operas were premiered in Paris. La Belle Epoque will bring a different perspective. Cabarets and bistros, casinos and music halls were opened for those

“nouveau riches” who wanted to have fun. It was a different public, wanting a different spectacle. New orchestras and new venues were found everywhere. New composers such as Claude Debussy, Gabriel Faure, Maurice Ravel were acclaimed and rejected at the same time. These musicians were supported by “salonnières”: rich women who became Maecenas them. Gramophones recorded this new music and songs became popular in no time. Erik Satie, an avant-garde musician and composer will play every night at Le Chat Noir. Moulin Rouge will open its doors in 1889 and will have a big impact in the life of the Parisiennes: le Bal-musette, le can-can and le tango conquered the night.

LES BALLETS RUSSES: a Russian flavour in Paris.

Due to the political instability in Russia, many noblemen and aristocrats had to leave. Among them was the impresario Sergei Diaghilev who will become the father of Les Ballets Russes. In 1906, Paris was taken by storm by Russian rhythms, fashion, and food. Diaghilev will bring the best dancers and ballerinas from the Tsar Imperial Ballet, He took care personally of the story, music, choreography and costume design. The exotic costumes designed by Bakst and Benois were a hit and French designers started to copy the Russian style. Picasso, Miro, Coco Chanel also worked for Diaghilev. Les Ballets Russes were born as an itinerant ballet and they travelled the world, including South America. The most remarkable ballet, still remembered today was “the Rite of Spring” which music was written by Stravinsky. The public

called the dancers “Northern savages” and Nijinsky who was the choreographer, was defenestrated. Diaghilev died in Venice in 1929 and with him, also his creation.

THE BIRTH OF CINEMA: first films, soup-operas and detective stories ever filmed.

The concept of “motion-pictures” later called “cinema” was born during la Belle Époque in France. In 1892, the first “cinématographe” camera was invented by Leon Bouly. It was able to record, develop and project motion pictures. We will enjoy the oeuvre of those great pioneers: Les Freres Lumiere, Georges Méliès, Charles Pathé and León Gaumont. The first films ever made lasted for only one minute. We will witness the birth of the first comedy, the first horror film, the first series of 25 minutes episodes. All was invented in the first decade of the 20 th century. Innovations that we still use today such as: storyboards, fade-in and fade-out, jump-cut, overlapping dissolves, special effects, multiple exposures, etc. Lumière and Méliès had a very different approach to how to use “le cinématographe”, maybe that’s why le Parisiennes called baptised them as “Lumière du Jour” and “Méliès de la Nuit”. Pathé and Gaumont were more focused on the business than in artistic creations. The golden age of the cinema will come when the industry moved to Hollywood due to the WWI.


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