Sunday, 12 February 2012

La Belle Époque - Vive la bagatelle !

There had never been a time like it. At least, that's what they said.  A time in which the well-to-do threw off the mundane constraints of work and social life and gave themselves over to leisure and pleasure and playful activities.

In was a time in which sports flourished. The first modern Olympics took place in Athens in 1896. Technical advances in smaller and lighter engines allowed the development of motor cycles and automobiles and allowed motor sports to develop, which in turn gave rise to the futurist movement. The Tour de France began its first ever race on 19 July 1903. Bicycles, indeed, became a fashion, and with it an attendant new fashion costume. The same was true with golf, horse riding, and, of course, swimwear. And photography, already firmly established, led to moving images and to the first picture houses.

Alphone Mucha poster
Historically, it covers the period from the late 19th century to the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 leading to the Great War for the Civilization of the World, that 'vast universal mockery', as Louis-Ferdinand Céline called it. It was particularly present in the European capitals where posters  on the new advertising pillars known as Morris Columns announced the latest spectacles in the theatres, the cinemas, the ballrooms, the art galleries and studios. Among the artists who produced the posters were Toulouse Lautrec and Czech-born Alphonse Mucha, and among the creatures on those posters was Sarah Bernhardt, named 'the Divine Sarah' by Oscar Wilde, and the most renowned actress of the Beautiful Age.

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