There’s a special aura about Paris. The City of Light has that intangible thing that we feel and makes us realise that this isn’t just any ordinary city. During our stay in Paris apartments we notice that walking out on the streets of Montmartre and dining in its little squares with later seeing the view of the city from the Sacré-Coeur is an experience that can hardly be matched by any other one that we partake in any other city in Europe or the world for that matter.
But if we think that Paris is a splendorous place, what we would have thought of it 100 or more years back is now unthinkable. That was the time when Paris was at its best, the golden era that is known as the Belle Époque, a name which means beautiful time or era that was only labelled as such after the First World War began, as a reminiscence of the good old days before the massacre and bloodbath that those four years created in Europe and especially on French land. It didn’t just take place in Paris but rather in all the big cities in Europe, but with the era being named in French and with Paris being the biggest representative of it all, it’s hard not to think of the French capital when we hear it mentioned. But going back to the good part, the Belle Époque was a time where everything thrived; culture, art, literature, technology, science and even economy. Regarding the latter, we’re all familiar with the advertising posters of this time, where the beauty lies not on the advertised item but rather in the art of the poster itself. These posters are nowadays a popular decorative item in many households.
Art in Paris has always been an important focus of attention but the art that derived from the Belle Epoque is one that’s in all of our minds. One of the most famous artists who depicted this golden era was Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. He lived in the bohemian district of Monmartre and used to be a regular at cabarets like the Moulin Rouge, and in his paintings we can always see the girls who worked at the cabarets and the kind of life that took place there. One could say that social life in Paris throughout the Belle Époque can be seen through Toulouse-Lautrec, our main witness of this time.
Regarding literature, naturalism and realism were the most popular literary trends, with Guy de Maupassant and Émile Zola at the head of French literature. Reading books such as ‘Boule de Suif’ and ‘L’Oeuvre’ by de Maupassant and Zola respectively, can give us a good idea of what living in Paris and France at that time was like, especially in the latter book by Zola, which depicts the bohemian life of artists of the time with drugs, prostitution and alcohol. This book is the reason why Zola fell out with his childhood friend Paul Cézanne, because he thought the depiction wasn’t accurate.
As mentioned before, the cabarets were the centre of Paris’ nightlife during the Belle Époque. Cabarets usually offered shows with music and/or women with not very many clothes on that delighted all the attendants, who usually sat drinking in tables watching the show or socializing with friends. The Moulin Rouge is probably the most famous one of them all along with Les Quatre Chats or Folies Bergère, three of the most popular cabarets of the time, all of them depicted by great artists such as the aforementioned Toulouse-Lautrec or Manet.
Relive the ‘Belle Époque’ when you rent apartments in Paris. You might not find Toulouse-Lautrec painting in the Moulin Rouge but the positive feeling that this city gives out has never faded away.