Paris: Impressions of Life 1880 – 1925 opens at Bendigo Art Gallery

Souvenir fan with a panorama of the Universal ExhibitionExclusive to Bendigo Art Gallery, Paris: Impressions of Life 1880 – 1925 has opened taking visitors on a journey through the lively and picturesque streets of historic Paris.

The busy banks of the Seine, bustling marketplaces, grand boulevards, idyllic public gardens, and the heady atmosphere of bohemian Montmartre are brought to life in more than 170 works of art and artisan objects.

From the renowned collection of the Musée Carnavalet, the iconic museum of the history of Paris, this exhibition reflects on an effervescent period of transformation that continues to capture the global imagination.

As the 19th century drew to a close, Paris courted the attention of the world, projecting a confident vision of a flourishing modern city. Amidst great political and social change, the new century brought economic prosperity and an air of optimism.

The Eiffel Tower, the centrepiece of the Universal Exhibition of 1889, rose high above the skyline in a feat of engineering that became a symbol of the spirit of progress and industrial innovation on which Paris prided itself.

The river Seine, the city’s backbone, remained an important hub of industry and trade, and a focal point of city planning through the addition of grand bridges that further connected distinct neighbourhoods on the Left and Right banks.

Mass urban development projects realised orderly city blocks and expansive boulevards like the Champs-Élysées. Carefully landscaped public gardens were established for leisure and health.

An emergent wealthy class sought luxury goods, entertainment, and leisure in the city and increasing affluence fuelled consumerism, inspiring colourful advertisements that added to the visual spectacle of the streetscape.

The blossoming theatre and cabaret scene, charged with the progressive and pleasure-seeking aura of the time, attracted people from all social classes. In Montmartre, crucible of the avant-garde, artists and intellectuals mingled and drew endless inspiration from the radically changing city.

The spirit of modernity which animated the city, galvanised a generation of artists, who experimented with new aesthetic and expressive possibilities and forged entirely new artistic movements.

Across seven themed pathways Paris: Impressions of Life 1880 – 1925 presents artisan street signs, historic couture, decorative arts, and everyday ephemera alongside paintings by artists including Jean Béraud, the pre-eminent painter of Parisian life in the Belle Époque, Maurice Utrillo and Paul Signac, pioneer of the artistic technique of pointillism, as well as vibrant graphic prints by Toulouse-Lautrec and his contemporaries.

Together they offer diverse insights into the events, locations, and everyday encounters that have come to define this dynamic period in one of the most famed and alluring cities of the world.

Jessica Bridgfoot, Director of Bendigo Art Gallery said it was an honour to work with this iconic museum to create an exhibition that captures the spirit and confidence of Paris as it flourished during this prosperous period.

“Paris is without doubt one of the world’s most picturesque and captivating cities, and the exhibition distils its beauty and energy,” she said.

From the busy banks of the Seine, bustling marketplaces, grand boulevards, idyllic public gardens and the bohemian Montmartre area, as it was portrayed by some of the most influential artists and artisans of the period.

“This is a rare opportunity for audiences to take a promenade through turn-of-the-century Paris, a dynamic time when the city courted the attention of the world,” said Ms Bridgfoot.

Paris: Impressions of Life 1880 – 1925
Bendigo Art Gallery, 42 View Street, Bendigo
Exhibition continues to 14 July 2024

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Souvenir fan with a panorama of the Universal Exhibition (Éventail souvenir avec panorama de l’Exposition universelle) 1889, print on polished cotton; wood, metal. Musée Carnavalet. CC0 Paris Musées / Musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris