The Hôtel de Ville in Paris is a symbol of political power and has exceptional heritage. Only open on rare occasions, here is a small guided tour based on the theme of artists.
Salon Pierre Puvis de Chavanne
In this room, two paintings by Pierre Puvis de Chavanne face each other: Summer (L'été) and Winter (L'hiver). But who was this now-forgotten painter?
Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824–1892) is considered a pioneer of Symbolism and a major figure within 19th-century French art. His paintings are characterized by simplified forms, the use of soft, flat colors, and the creation of an enigmatic atmosphere that focuses on the imagination and dreams. His work, executed with great sobriety, has influenced many painters.
Salon des Arcades
The Salon des Arcades is divided into three separate areas: Salon des Science, Salon des Arts, and the Salon des Literature.
The Republic played a major role as patron to many 19th-century painters, commissioning some 50 artists for the Salon des Arcades alone. The most famous artists decorated the ceilings, while the lesser-known artists worked on the walls.
Léon Bonnat, star of 19th-century painting
You can admire Bonnat's work on the ceiling of the Salon des Arts: The Triumph of Art (Le Triomphe de l'Art). The aim of this work was to sacralize culture.
As a prolific collector, Bonnat bequeathed many drawings and sculptures to the museum of Bayonne, which now bears his name—the Bonnat-Helleu Museum (Musée Bonnat-Helleu). His work is still considered to be the avant-garde of French painting. He became a member of the Academy of Fine Arts (Académie des Beaux-Arts) in 1881, then director of the School of Fine Arts (École des Beaux-Arts) in 1905, with pupils including Raoul Dufy, Gustave Caillebotte, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Georges Braque, and Alfred Roll. Bonnat was the portraitist of many contemporary personalities, including Victor Hugo.
Victor Hugo, icon of the Hôtel de Ville
The author of Les Misérables, who was immortalised by Léon Bonnat, can also be found at the Hôtel de Ville. This is thanks to the government of the Third Republic (1870–1940), who wished to honor Hugo for his political and intellectual commitment to Emperor Napoleon III.
Victor Hugo Offering his Lyre to the City of Paris
As a Parisian at heart, Hugo denounced social misery. He was also a fervent defender of peace, freedom, and justice, and an avant-gardist in his time—he advocated for the abolition of the death penalty and the idea of a unified Europe. An inspiring figure for Pierre Puvis de Chavanne.
To find out more about the Hôtel de Ville in Paris, visit paris.fr