The most important man in France
From 1892 to 1900, the General Commissioner of the 1900 Universal Exhibition, Alfred Picard, was fully invested in his role. The press named him the most important man in France.
The big day
The Universal Exhibition was opened by French President Emil Loubet on 14 April 1900. The new century was marked with a hundred cannon salute. The Grand Palais opened to the public on 16 May 1900.
Advertising poster for the universal admission ticket for attractions at the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris. (1900) by Philippe Chapelier and © Bibliothèque Forney / Roger ViolletOriginal Source: Roger Viollet photo agency website
The Exhibition attracted 51 million visitors, 21 million more than in 1889. By comparison, the population of France at that time was 41.5 million.
The Grand Palais: a source of national pride
The Grand Palais opened to the public amid a chorus of praise! The avenue is seen as a flagship for the capital, the building's façades majestic, and the nave is judged to be a masterpiece of mirror making. The "Le Petit Parisien" newspaper gushed that "nothing so magnificent has been built since the Opéra! ". "L'Illustration" praised a building that is "modern three times over, from the speed of its construction (...), to the grandiose effects of combined materials (iron and stone) (...) and for its purpose: it's a palace built for crowds".
A palace to the glory of French art
"This monument is dedicated by the French Republic to the glory of French art," reads the official declaration. The Exhibition paid tribute: on the Palais d'Antin side, the Centennale celebrated the greatest French works of art from 1800 to 1890, and on the nave side, the Décennale focused on French art from 1890 to 1900. The foreign sections were located in the rooms looking out onto the Seine.
An encyclopaedic presentation
The works were intended to be presented chronologically, from neoclassicism to impressionism. In the halls, sculptures were displayed next to paintings from the same period. Such encyclopaedic presentations were in favour at the time. The period was obviously favourable to such an excessive collection: the incredible diversity of French talent needed to be displayed.
An over-abundance of works
The number of works of art was dizzying: 3,066 for the Centennale, 3,336 for the Décennale and 4,967 for all the foreign sections. The press encouraged visitors to return several times so as not to be overwhelmed. The Palais des Beaux-Arts exhibition also provoked admiration. "A more magnificent assembly of beautiful things is unimaginable! "
The Centennale cemented the image of French art on the international stage. The contemporary artists on display were proudly vindicated where many had long been ignored. Such was the case for the Impressionists, who finally achieved recognition from the exhibition. Claude Monet, Armand Guillemin, Albert Lebourg, Camille Pissarro and Auguste Renoir were displayed alongside departed members of the group such as Alfred Sisley, Frédéric Bazille, Eugène Boudin and Berthe Morisot.
Georges Récipon's two quadrigas
One year after the Universal Exhibition, the Grand Palais' design was crowned with two monumental statue groups: the quadrigas of Georges Récipon. On the Champs-Elysées side, “Immortality outstripping Time".
Colossal quadriga of Harmony triumphing over Discord, bronze above the Grand Palais. by © RMN-Grand Palais, 2015Rmn-Grand Palais
On the Seine side, “Harmony triumphing over Discord”.
The horses leap energetically into the skies above Paris. With a lightness of touch that defies their twelve tonne weight, these masterpieces seem to launch themselves into the Parisian sky, 30 metres above the ground.
We would like to thank all the people who have contributed to the construction of this journey through the Grand Palais and those who have given us valuable time and information as well as permission to reproduce their documentation.