1901 - 1914

The first years (1901-1914)

Rmn-Grand Palais

After the Universal Exhibition, the Grand Palais became a cultural and economic centre for the capital. It was a showcase for modernity in all its forms.

Innovation and modernity
The Grand Palais welcomed all emerging trends. The pre-war years were defined by optimism and a thirst for discovery. The first Salon de l'automobile, du cycle et des sports opened its doors on 25 January 1901. It featured 600 stands and some celebrated exhibitors: Renault, Peugeot, Mercedes-Benz... Despite being held in the middle of winter in the unheated nave (some even named it "little Siberia"), the "Paris Motor Show" instantly became one of the most anticipated events in the calendar, attracting a growing number of visitors every year.

From 1901 to 1961, crowds rushed to discover the finest cars of the day and the latest innovations. By 1954, the number of visitors exceeded one million.

Aviation dreams
Just like the automobile, aviation was a voyage of discovery that defined the start of the new century. In September 1909, the nave hosted planes, airships and hot air balloons, earning the name "the great aviary". The star of the first Powered Flight Exhibition was the Blériot XI monoplane, in which Louis Blériot had recently crossed the Channel in just 37 minutes!

The critic Louis Baudry De Saunier described the first Exhibition in "L'Illustration": "Mechanically powered flight (...) could not fail to capture the crowd's enthusiasm (...). The forces of law and order were even required to contain the sea of visitors! ".

The Salon d’automne
In 1903, the art critic Frantz Jourdain created the Salon d'automne (autumn exhibition) to exhibit the latest trends in art. The first exhibition was held in the Petit Palais. It was such a success that the following edition in 1904 was held in the Grand Palais.

The 1904 exhibition featured a room dedicated to Paul Cézanne

The works on display included "Les Baigneurs", now at the Musée d'Orsay.

The Concours agricole
The Concours agricole went on to become the Paris International Agriculture Show. On the clay floor of the nave, this livestock competition brought together the finest specimens along with 5,412 other animals. It was also the occasion to discover the latest machine tools such as threshing machines and the first tractors.
The Exposition coloniale
At the start of the century, France was the second largest colonial power in the world after Britain. The Colonial Exhibition presented an exotic panorama with reconstructions of villages and demonstrations of traditional crafts. Films shot on location were also shown, alongside traditional dance and music performances.

This exhibition of colonial France took place in the nave, in a redesigned décor.

Horse Shows
Between 1901 and 1957, the Grand Palais celebrated the French equestrian arts. The Horse Shows took place over three weeks, and were a sporting and a social event. It all started with the parade: around 1,500 French horses, civilian and military, and as many riders, owners and groomers would travel from the four corners of France by train. Their parade through the capital was a spectacle in itself! The day before the trials, the animals were housed in the stables of the Grand Palais. The veterinary inspections were daunting, as was passing before the judges before reaching the track: judges would stand at the entrance, ready to refuse access to anyone who did not meet regulations.
Credits: Story

Nous souhaitons remercier chaleureusement toutes les personnes qui ont contribué à la conception de ce parcours Grand Palais et celles qui ont apporté gracieusement leur(s) information(s) et documents reproduits.

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