Tag Archives: Paris 1900 exhibit

Sarah Bernhardt, Sculptor


At the “Paris 1900” exhibit this past spring, I was not surprised to see theatrical posters featuring the famous actress Sarah Bernhardt, “The Divine Sarah.”  She was a celebrated–and often notorious–figure of the Belle Epoque. She was thrown out of the Comedie-Francaise as a very young woman, for slapping another actress.  But she lived to return in triumph, giving spectacular performances to rave reviews. The venerable Comedie-Francaise was not big enough for her talents, though.  She founded her own theaters in several locations and traveled the world performing.

Acting was not big enough for her talents, either. Who knew that  “The Divine Sarah” was an accomplished sculptor, when she wasn’t onstage playing Phaedra–or Hamlet?  She created around 50 sculptures, starting when she was 25. She painted, too.


The Paris 1900 exhibit contained a sculpture that Sarah Bernhardt actually created for the 1900 Exposition held on the banks of the Seine. It’s titled “Une Algue,” which I think means “An Algae.”  It certainly looks like one, lovingly rendered in bronze.  Where did she find the time?

Sarah Bernhardt, Public Domain

Sarah Bernhardt, Public Domain

Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe!


Accessories Make the Outfit

The Art Nouveau movement featured so prominently in the Paris 1900 Exhibit was expressed in the smallest details of daily life.  I saw several beautiful examples of decorative combs to be worn in women’s hair.

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Natural forms were everywhere, but developed into the most sophisticated designs.


One of these combs would be just the thing to anchor an artistically tousled chignon.


My favorite item, though, was a short fitted jacket in linen and cotton. It was made special with elaborate assymmetrical embroidery and all manner of fine needlework details. In 1900, women had all kinds of new freedoms.  I can see a fashionable woman grabbing this jacket and tossing it on over a simple skirt, on her way out the door with plans to cross Paris on the newly-opened Metro subway. I’d have cheerfully taken this jacket home right out of the display case.  I think it would look great with jeans.

Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe!

Paris Fashion1900: Worth It


WorthDressThis dress, featured in the Paris 1900 exhibit last spring, was made in the atelier of the man generally reputed to be the first “couturier,” or artist whose chosen art form was women’s fashion. Charles Frederick Worth laid the groundwork for Dior, St. Laurent and others in that rarefied sphere.

Charles Frederick Worth, Public Domain

Charles Frederick Worth, Public Domain

Charles Frederick Worth founded the venerable House of Worth, which clothed rich and beautiful women beginning in 1858 in Paris.  He was actually an Englishman, and he got his start in drapery shops.  In his spare time, he made dresses for his wife.  Soon his designs were in demand, and he was on his way. The Empress Eugenie (wife of Napoleon III) found her way to his shop, and other rich and titled women followed.

Previously, a woman who wanted a dress went to a dressmaker and specified how the dress was to be made. Worth came up with a brilliant idea:  he held fashion shows four times a year featuring various styles.  Women could choose a style, then choose the fabric and have it tailored to their own figures.

This particular dress had a sort of matronly look, I thought. It was made in about 1895, five years before the Exposition of 1900.  I much preferred the more ethereal dresses in sheer white fabrics. But the rich and titled no doubt still needed imposing clothes in expensive fabrics. For such women, Worth was their man.

Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe!


Petit Palais: Belle Epoque Revisited


I’m giving myself permission to go on for awhile about the wonderful Paris exhibit currently in the Petit Palais, “Paris 1900.” Actually, if I had the means and the time, I’d hop a plane to Paris to see it again.  It closes August 17, 2014.  Hint:  go online and get advance tickets.  I saw it on my last day in Paris in April, had not planned ahead, and waited in line about 45 minutes.  I imagine the wait would be longer now.  The good thing is that only a certain number of visitors are allowed in at a time, so it will not be mobbed like the Louvre  and the Orsay in summer.

Exciting artists like Cezanne, Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Vuillard, Maillol, Denis, and Rodin are featured in the fine arts section. Art Nouveau masterpieces abound.


The building itself is glorious.  It is the only remaining complete building from the Paris Exposition 1900, and it gives some idea of the pre-World War I exuberance of Paris. The future seemed limitless to the 51million tourists who attended the Exposition. That is a stupendous number of people, at a time when the Metro had just opened and travel was much more difficult than it is today.


There’s a beautiful plant-filled inner courtyard, which allows light into the large building.

Petit Interior

The galleries on the main floor contain a permanent collection which is interesting in itself.  Everything seems spacious, light and airy.

A link to the exhibit is at


Dancing into the 20th Century


PorcelainDancersThese porcelain dancers from the Paris 1900 Exhibit, in the Petit Palais of Paris in 2014, epitomize the ideals of beauty of the period:  slender, tall, and above all, in graceful motion. The corseted and bustled female form was gone; in its place was a slender silhouette, able to move about the world with new freedom.


Fashionable women of the period cultivated similar ideals as they went about their daily lives. The corseted and bustled female form was gone; in its place was a slender silhouette, perfect for the modern woman.


Coming or going, the fashionable woman of 1900 exuded femininity and grace.