19th Century French Golden Ages Cultural Studies Essay

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Before the end of the 19th century a golden age had dawned on France. Paris had metamorphosed into a glimmering metropolis at the height of the industrial revolution and an era of bohemia, cabaret and vivid nightlife swept across her

outskirts of Montmartre and Montparnasse. In contrast Baron Haussmann's reimaging/ urbanization at the heart of Paris' bourgeois city center spurred momentum for the male dominated bourgeois engine. Increasingly, men had more power and began to frequent night clubs and cabaret theatres where woman, if not their partners were prostitutes and courtesans. Paris herself flourished in the wake of technological innovation; electric lights flared/shone a spectrum of colours across night-lived Parisian streets, a renaissance of eastern art mingled with western Parisian society through open importation, and the advent of photography plus chromolithographic printing provided an artistic facade for the mass bohemian and middle class spheres. These were among the almost limitless catalysts for the development and production of art, design and society throughout late 19th century and early 20th century Paris.

The foundations of painting and graphic design's progression had been laid by three French legendary artists, Henri de Tolouse-Lautrec, Jules Cheret and Henri Matisse during the Belle Époque period, symbolized by the avid bohemia and decadence surrounding the new urbanized Paris. These are evidenced in their respective works whose ground-breaking disciplines and experimentation with the canvas would conceive a new era of artistic modernity; La Goulue, Poster for Moulin Rouge, Papier Cigarrettes, and Le Bonheur de Vivre. Through this essay I aim to discuss the relationship between technological innovations and the production of art and graphic design during Paris' dawn of modernity and gain insight into the surrounding tensions within Parisian society linked to the industrial revolution.

"As soon as the sun sets, the cafes of the Boulevards are all aglow. They are all handsome developments, gorgeous with plate-glass, frescoes, and gildings. Scores of light dazzle the eye, and multiply themselves in the long mirrors. In the summer no one thinks of sitting indoors, and the sidewalks, or trottoirs, are lined with little tables and chairs. Persons of all classes sit here, smoking, drinking, chatting, reading the journals. Here is a true democracy- the only social equality to be seen in Christendom." James Dabney McCabe.


During 1852 Baron Haussman under the orders of Napoleon III set out to urbanize and revolutionize the heart of Paris, the major middle class bourgeois concentration (Bunbury, 2004). Haussman sought out to raze the archaic and overcrowded streets, parks and French gothic architecture, and replace it all with wider Boulevards, uniform department store facades, café's and decadent parks.(More detail on Haussmanisation; a façade of cleanliness, rejuvenation of city health and networked cohenrency (Eiffel Tower?). The new innovative electric artificial lights lit the streets in abundance at dusk, and beside them the enlarged boulevards could accommodate increasing numbers of night loving citizens, motorized and horse driven cars (Bunbury, 2004; Kessler, 2006) (CITY OF LIGHT). Systems of railway networks were implemented, furthering the momentum of inner-city transport and economical logistics. Paris was now a bustling metropolis at her prime in the midst of the industrial revolution, and the wealthy middle class dominated the heart of the city.

However, the consequences of Haussman's interventions became apparent as whole districts and neighborhoods of the French working class were demolished in order to erect suitable housing for the growing population. Bunbury (2004) attributes this to an "influx of rural workers seeking employment in Paris due to prevalent mass mechanization erasing the need for human hands." These workers, displaced and homeless sought refuge in Montmartre in the outskirts of Paris where it remained untouched by Haussman, thus segregating it from the wealthy middle class (Bunbury, 2004; Kessler 2006). Montmartre became a sanctuary (Epitome) for the bohemian lifestyle, the poor, and artists including Van Gogh who sought cheap accommodation within the narrow and cozy streets. (Adult entertainment, nightlife., Prostitution, there were aprox 60,000 Prostitutes and 14,000 painters (Maubert, 2004)? To cope with the stress of the times, the citizens of Montmartre sought comfort in alcohol whose industry flourished during the industrial revolution (Degas L'Absinthe) and consequently, bars, nightclubs and cabaret theatres catered to a spike in demand, and a thriving bohemian nightlife. This marks the beginning of an era of decadence, living for the moment, of alcoholism and debauchery.

Venues such as Le Chat Noir and most importantly The Moulin Rouge were the places to be, to drink, to be enticed by the infamous can-can dancers such as La Goulue (Louise Weber) in order to forget the woes of unemployment and troubling times for the regressed. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec captures this era of decadence through his lithographic print,' La Goloue de Moulin Rouge' (DATE).La Goloue de Moulin Rouge features the scandalous dancer La Goulue, affectionately named "the glutton" by the gazing public. Her figure with her high held leg became a symbol for the notorious electrifying can-can dance. Her white undergarments were deliberately shown by Lautrec and further emphasize Moulin Rouge as a venue of sexual excitement and decadence (Bunbury, 2004).

Lautrec implemented bright red typefaces featuring the Moulin Rouge to advertise the theatre and highlights the provocative nature of the can-can dance pioneered on its stage. The red typefaces reflect the iconic electric red lights featured at the entrances of brothels and nightclubs of whom Lautrec was known to frequent on a regular basis. Lautrec was often mocked amongst the public for his deformity, but at night he sought comfort in women, the excitement of the cabaret dances and alcohol in which there would never be a drought in Montmartre (Maubert, 2004). Thus the colour red would be a common reminder of refuge for Lautrec, and in turn this relationship translated back on the Moulin Rouge theatre and to the eye catching electric red-lit windmill that towers over its facade (Street).

This became the icon representing the self indulgence of Montmartre (Maubert, 2004; Shone, 1977).

La Goloue Moulin Rouge also depicts contradictory subject matter. Montmartre's notoriety (for?) soon spread to the heart of Paris, words of infamy and debauchery aroused the upper and middle class men. In the years following Jules Cheret's posters for the vivacious cabarets and nightclubs featured in Montmartre, the district would regularly be catering to the male bourgeoisie, dressed in (types of attire), and drinking champagne, a drink which fell from the grace of royalty to a commodity of sensual excess. These men can be reflected on Valentin Le Desosse, La Goulue's dance partner featured in front of her. His top hat and long coat plus his size hierarchy in the composition indicates he belonged to an upper class. His attire mirrors that of the silhouettes of upper gentlemen in the background contemplating La Gouloue (also featured in the shadows of Le Chat Noir). Lautrec has clearly conceded to the presence of the wealthy upper classes and perhaps determines that Montmartre's tension of social segregation has been overcome. What was originally a poor man's entertainment venue was now a place of class equality, created by Montmartre's reputation as a retreat from the complications caused by Haussman's urbanization and amplified by the attractive debauched cabarets like the Moulin Rouge.

From 1850 Japan opened its doors to the western world. A renaissance of eastern art swept over Paris through open importation of Japanese goods, fuelled by the indulgent spending of the post-urbanized upper and middles class spheres. Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo held an exhibition featuring exquisite Japanese wood cuts and wood prints (ukiyo-e) (exhibition examples. Lautrec, having befriended Van Gogh (where and when) was enchanted by

Jules Chéret:


Advertising gave power to women, to be different. Smoking helped them rise above the class. Clothes were being mass-produced, along with posters.

Perfume-whaling, Japanese?


Cherrettes became poster girls, ideal promotion of women. -arcadia (leads to Matisse)


Consolidation of Lautrec and Cheret contexts.


True bohemia, romance, being human, Japonisme (Colours and Light, Composition and Space, Breaking away from photography and documentation.

Closing the Belle Epoque.


-HAUSSMAN AND MONTMARTE, Urbanization, Cafes, Bohemia, working class segregation, artists in MONTMARTRE.


Electric lights, Red light districts, Moulin Rouge, Windmill, Red colour, Alcohol and Lautrec. CHAMPAGNE, Decadence. BELLE EPOQUE. Ecstasy,

(STYLE) Japonisme, composition, flat Colours, Outlines, Linework and Lithography, Fame, PHOTOGRAPHY AND PORTRAITURE, LEADS TO PRINTMAKING AND Chromo-lithpgraphy. Telephone, communication

(MASS PRODUCTION/ ADVENT OF ADVERTISING) Printmaking, Chromolithography, 3000 posters,