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Spectacle and Leisure in Paris: From Degas to Picasso

At the turn of the nineteenth century France prided itself as a global cultural leader. Republican politics promoted both a booming business climate and an empowering belief in the importance of the arts, and leading artists presented Paris as a unique site of urban modernity through their focus on its spectacles of entertainment and the allure of its particular forms of leisure.

Bringing together a broad selection of prints, posters, photographs, and film, this exhibition offers an overview of the thriving entertainment cultures of Paris in the last decades of the nineteenth century. The art of Pierre Bonnard, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, and others addresses the pulsating life of the boulevards, the speed of the racetrack, and the performance worlds of the café-concert, ballet, opera, and the theater, both classical and popular. These diverse themes inspired traditional as well as innovative mediums: fine art prints by Édouard Vuillard and Degas are rivaled, for example, by the rapid development of the popular commercial poster in the hands of Jules Chéret, Alphonse Mucha, and Toulouse-Lautrec, whose bold designs promoted the celebrity status of such figures as Jane Avril, Sarah Bernhardt, and Loïe Fuller. This exhibition thus also reveals the intersection of the visual arts with public life in Paris during this creative and vibrant time.