The Concours Lépine was created in 1901 by Louis Lépine, prefect of the Seine region, to promote and protect toys created by French manufacturers. The issue was both economic and patriotic – Germany was becoming a competitor.
The August 1920 event looked towards the future. In his opening speech, the minister for Hygiene, Jules-Louis Breton, declared: "No more cannons, lead soldiers or submarines. This shall be the first show for peace". Bolstered by its success, the Concours would gradually expand into other areas: small mechanical devices, furniture, household utensils. Today. the Concours Lépine remains synonymous with audacity and invention.
Salon des Indépendants
En 1920, du 28 janvier au 29 février, le Grand Palais accueille la première exposition du Salon des Indépendants d’après-guerre. Le peintre Paul Signac en est le président.
31st Salon des indépendants at the Grand Palais, opened by education minister Mr. Honorat. (1920) by © Gaumont-Pathé ArchivesRmn-Grand Palais
A story of the heart
1920. On leave in Paris, Captain Charles de Gaulle met his future wife Yvonne Vendroux at the Salon d'Automne. Although there are several accounts of their meeting, only one fact is agreed upon: the future couple conversed for the first time in front of the "Woman in Blue with Red Necklace" by Kees van Dongen.
An unusual visitor
23 December 1922. The International Air Show opened its doors at 9 am. Engines could be heard approaching. In front of the incredulous eyes of a few bystanders, a Caudron C68 biplane landed on avenue Alexandre III, right in front of the Grand Palais! The pilot was none other than Jean Bécheler, a hero of the Great War who now flew test flights for his employers the Caudron brothers. He announced to the press that he wanted to test his plane, a biplane for tourists with folding wings. The aviator received an ovation from visitors as he entered the nave, but he also received a caution from the police – flying over the capital had been outlawed in 1919. Was this a supreme publicity stunt orchestrated by the Caudron brothers? Quite possibly: a photographer just happened to be among those in attendance that morning...
The triumph of Art Deco
Art Deco was the triumph of the International Exhibition of modern decorative and industrial arts in 1925. Gone were the curves of Art Nouveau, replaced by geometric lines and stripped down forms! The Grand Palais interior is the talk of the town... and unrecognisable! The metal columns were masked and the stairway of honour became a monumental straight staircase. The creations of 600 French art schools (engraving, enamels, glass and ceramics, stained glass, jewellery, etc.) were displayed. They were sumptuous and fragile: the prefect of Paris made a formal decree banning smoking in the Grand Palais that still holds today.
The Salon des Arts ménagers
The idea for this show dates back to 1920. It was the idea of Jules-Louis Breton, minister of Hygiene and Social Welfare. This paradise for the modern woman was held at the Grand Palais from 1926 to 1960. It was an instant success and crowds rushed to see the new machines that would "liberate" housewives from their daily tasks. The 1926 show welcomed 145,000 visitors, who discovered the Auto-Thermos and the pressure cooker. An fully-functional American home was erected in the nave for the occasion.
The Grand Palais' own architect
From 1901 to 1968, André Granet (1881-1974), created fabulous temporary designs for the three main shows (the motor, air and childhood shows).
22nd Paris Motor Show at the Grand Palais: temporary designs erected by the architect André Granet. (1928) by Paul-Joseph-Albert Chevojon (1865-1925) and © CNAM/DAF/Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine/Archives d'architecture du XXe siècle, cliché ChevojonRmn-Grand Palais
Although his name continues to be linked to Art Deco, which he helped to popularise, he was also the instigator of fashionable designs that would gradually come to conceal the glass roof entirely.
It seems surprising that the glass was completely masked less than thirty years after its creation, but given that Parisian pollution had muddied the windows, light could no longer enter. Of course, electricity was now in general use.
Parade and equestrian demonstration, Grand Palais, 1931. (1931) by © Institut national de l'audiovisuel (INA), France, 2015Rmn-Grand Palais
The Grand Palais is an amazing space for equestrian parades.
The 1937 equestrian parade
French president Albert Lebrun welcomed King Gustaf V of Sweden to a nave that had been entirely redesigned by André Granet. After the national anthems, the gala could begin. Parading in one after the other were the 1720 Garde de Paris, the elite legion of the 1804 imperial guard, the hundred guards of the second empire and the cavalry of the Republican guard. The audience cried out in admiration and applauded for a long time. All of sudden, the cavalry was still. The captain ordered: "Present... sabre! " The officials and the crowds all took to their feet to salute. The presentation of the flag took place in absolute silence. This moment of shared emotion is one of the great moments in French equestrianism.
02 July 1937. The Grand Palais hosts the international dance Gala. The Opéra de Paris and Russian Ballet of Monte Carlo were the favourites. The Munich Ballet gave a moving performance, as did the young Spanish dancer Teresina. But the stars of the show were the 46 Rockettes from the Radio City Music Hall.
Parade and equestrian demonstration, Grand Palais, 1931. by © DRRmn-Grand Palais
The perfection of their sequences brought spectators to their knees. Their finale of "La Marseillaise" was greeted with a standing ovation.
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.