Spectacle and Leisure in Paris: Degas to Mucha

February 10, 2017 - May 21, 2017
Garen Gallery

At the turn of the nineteenth century France prided itself as a global cultural leader. Republican politics promoted both a booming business climate and an empowering belief in the importance of the arts, and leading artists presented Paris as a unique site of urban modernity through their focus on its spectacles of entertainment and the allure of its particular forms of leisure.

Bringing together a broad selection of prints, posters, photographs, and film, this exhibition offers an overview of the thriving entertainment cultures of Paris in the last decades of the nineteenth century. The art of Pierre Bonnard, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, and others addresses the pulsating life of the boulevards, the speed of the racetrack, and the performance worlds of the café-concert, ballet, opera, and the theater, both classical and popular. These diverse themes inspired traditional as well as innovative mediums: fine art prints by Édouard Vuillard and Degas are rivaled, for example, by the rapid development of the popular commercial poster in the hands of Jules Chéret, Alphonse Mucha, and Toulouse-Lautrec, whose bold designs promoted the celebrity status of such figures as Jane Avril, Sarah Bernhardt, and Loïe Fuller. This exhibition thus also reveals the intersection of the visual arts with public life in Paris during this creative and vibrant time.

The exhibition is curated by Elizabeth C. Childs, Etta and Mark Steinberg Professor of Art History and chair of the Department of Art History & Archaeology in Arts & Sciences.

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Exhibition support

Support for the exhibition is provided by the William T. Kemper Foundation; the Department of Art History & Archaeology and a Classroom Innovation Grant in Arts & Sciences; the Hortense Lewin Art Fund; and members of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.

Exhibition catalog

An accompanying catalog is published by the Kemper Art Museum, edited by Elizabeth C. Childs with essays by Childs; Colin Burnett, assistant professor of film and media studies; and graduate students in the Department of Art History & Archaeology in Arts & Sciences. It will be available at the Museum and distributed through the University of Chicago Press.

Related programs

Spring 2017 Exhibitions Opening
Art Inspiring Music: Paris at the Turn of the 19th Century
French Film at the Turn of the Century: Spectacles de curiosité
Art Inspiring Dance: Discovering Loïe Fuller
Women and the Kemper: Fashion of the Belle Époque
Lecture: Mediated by Images—Entertainment and Experience in Fin-de-siècle Montmartre
Triptych: A Tour of Modern Paris in Three Parts
Gallery Talk: Elizabeth C. Childs
Family Fun Day
Women and the Kemper Tour: John Lesser Collection

Image credits

Previous: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864–1901), May Milton, 1895. Color lithograph, Ed. 100, 31 1/2 x 24 5/8". Gift of John Frank Lesser, 2008.