Journal Response #4 & #5
La Belle Époque
Have you ever been to Paris or any part of Europe? If so, did you notice how exquisite and extravagant the style is there? This is an impact of the Beautiful Age! The “Beautiful Age” otherwise known as La Belle Époque was a time of peace and prosperity. La Belle Époque began around the late 1800’s a few years after the Franco-Prussian war and ended in the early 1900’s when World War I began (Wolfson Academic). During this time, art flourished and became a seminal period in France’s history. This time period was also recognized as an era of optimism and grandeur. It was a time of embracing new technology and scientific discoveries, as well as providing a flourishing environment for the arts such as literature, music, theatre, and the newly recognized visual arts.
The joy of life awoke in all social classes, the desire of new, extraordinary, sensational things. The afore mentioned progress in science and technique, the improvements in social, financial and political respect during a long period of peace together with new constitutions in countries caused for the rest an increasing prosperity and wide-spread optimism and trust in future. Cultural life was now accessible for all classes; people went out into cabarets to get distracted or for political mockeries. Cheerfulness, permissiveness and flashy outfits ruled.
One of the symbols for this age was the Moulin Rouge. It was known for its Can-Can dance and new styles in performance theatre (Wilde). It became a mixing bowl of upper class, middle class, women and foreigners. The Eiffel Tower (world wonder) was built as the grand entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair held in Paris, which opened up entertainment for France (Wilde). Fashionable noiseless carriages where invented and replaced by automobiles. Gas lightening was replaced by electric lightening. Cinematography was invented with the first film screened in 1895 (Stein). Science was improved as biologist came to understand the germ theory of disease and the field of bacteriology was established. Luxurious staircases became showcases and exotic feathers and furs were being seen more in fashion. The impressionism painting style became more popular. Artistic movements were made to convey inner feelings, whether it be an emotional or spiritual message, modern artists were not afraid to refuse the standard term of beauty and wanted to depict a more honest and personal depiction of modern life. Perhaps the most famous thing in the La Belle Époque was the modernized Victorian style fashion. It displayed great attention to detail and was performed by only the most experienced and capable seamstresses, who hand crafted each frock, pushing France to become the fashion capitol of the world (Wolfson Academic).
Although this seemed like the golden age, the harsh reality of life in France was far from grand and beautiful. Tensions between social classes arose and separation of these classes became very important, working class and upper class neighborhoods where often separated by large distances. An entire underclass never saw the spoils of the La Belle Époque’s special and entertainment (Wilde). Poverty had remained an epidemic in the urban slums of Paris before and after the era.
La Belle Époque was one of those times we all refer to as the ‘good ol’ days’. An era many wish they could have been a part of it. It was an incredible moment of optimism and creativity and everything was being promoted in a very modern way. Luxurious lifestyles, beautiful architecture and rising fashion was a very important time during the era for European society and has since then helped shape Europe to what it is today. Works Cited
Stein, J. (n.d.). The Belle Epoque in Europe. Retrieved from Belle Epoque: http://www.la-belle-epoque.de/beintroe.htm Wilde, R. (n.d.). The Belle Époque ("Beautiful Age"). Retrieved April 12, 2014, from About.com European History: http://europeanhistory.about.com/od/france/a/belleepoque.htm Wolfson Academic. (n.d.). La Belle Époque. Retrieved April 13, 2014, from The Twilight of the 19th Century: http://www.mdc.edu/wolfson/academic/ArtsLetters/art_philosophy/Humanities/bel