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Mon, Oct 03


Online Lecture

Intro to La Belle Epoque: the Golden years of Paris before WWI

A brief introduction to France at the end of the 19 th century: the Franco-Prussian War and the siege of Paris. The Second Industrial Revolution, its influence on the arts, crafts, sciences, industries. The birth of cabarets, bistros, music halls. New art, new music, new morals… new “nouveau riches”

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Intro to La Belle Epoque: the Golden years of Paris before WWI
Intro to La Belle Epoque: the Golden years of Paris before WWI

Time & Location

Oct 03, 2022, 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM GMT+1

Online Lecture


About the Event

The so-called “Belle Époque” emerged in Paris – the city of light – in the last decades of the 19th century. Paris was the centre of culture. After the Franco-Prussian war, life meant to be lived. Modernity was the moving spirit. It was the time of the machines: painters were finding the way to represent movement. The Argentinian tango was danced along with the popular Johan Strauss waltzes. Russia brought its Ballet Russes and Nijinsky was a celebrity. The Lumiere Brothers were showing short films and soon Gaumont and Pathé were opening cinemas…and one day, it was all over. That day was August 4th 1914. The day WWI started.

Maria Chester

Will spoil us with ten executive lectures which will take place on:

Mondays at 19:00 

from Monday 03 October 2022 to Monday 05 December 2022.

Once you pay you will get an email confirming your payment. This email will also contain a link for the online lecture. If you have not received any emails with a link, please check your spam or junk folder, or email us well in advance and we will manually send you the link.

This lecture will be recorded and can be bought as an On Demand lecture for members of our database once the talk has finished.

Upcoming weeks:

10 th OCTOBER- ART: 1905 – FAUVISM

After Realism and Naturalism, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, Henri Matisse will break all the rules by applying furious pure colours deserving the mote “fauve” (wild beast) given by the art critic Louis Vauxcelles. We will analyse the style, the technique and study the oeuvre of Matisse, Derain, Vlaminck, Dufy and Braque as well as other Fauve artists, like Kees van Dongen. Fauvism opened the door to Modernism in art.

17 th OCTOBER – ART: 1909 -CUBISM

The Trocadero was the place visited daily by the young Picasso and his friend Braque. In there, they found the exotic beauty of the African masks and sculptures from Oceania. We will virtually visit their studios. In Picasso’s one, we will find an old photo camera with its lens broken: it was a gift from the Italian Gino Severini, who will become a Futurist painter. We will try to find the differences between Analytic Cubism and Synthetic Cubism. We will go through the oeuvre of what I call “The three great musketeers” of Cubism: Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris. We shall also analyse the influence of Cubism in art and architecture.

24 th OCTOBER – ART: 1909 – FUTURISM

Futurism is a movement with a manifesto written by poet and journalist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti who will be the engine behind the movement. Marinetti met Mussolini when they were working as journalists and became close friends. Futurism was born as a literary movement which will attract the attention of Italian artists

Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carra, Luigi Russolo and Gino Severini. They will study almost scientifically the sounds and waves of movement. Many of their work (specially the “Futur Balla” signature used by Giacomo Balla) will try to show these waves in colours. They organised soirees in which they will recite non- sensical words and odd sounds anticipating – in a way – the future Dada sessions in Zürich during the WWI. In Britain, the Futurist movement became the Vorticist, led by Wyndham Lewis. Futurists artists were banned because they were active fascist militants.

31 st OCTOBER – 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”. He 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.

07 th NOVEMBER - 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.”

14 th NOVEMBER - 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.

21 st NOVEMBER - 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.

28 th NOVEMBER - 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.

05 th DECEMBER - 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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