Musée d'Orsay: Architecture and Graphic Arts

Architecture and Graphic Arts

The architecture of muses and amusements

Entertainment venues in the Musée d’Orsay collections

End of the nave

drawing
Eugène GrassetLarge gable façade and decor for the cabaret "Le Chat Noir"© Musée d'Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
The “Boulevard du crime” at the heart of theatreland had just been demolished by Haussmann’s urban development, when the Opera project started in 1862 provided the impetus for an unprecedented expansion in the theatre world.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, a variation of the Parisian archetype was an undeniably attractive asset for a city. Freedom to build theatres as allowed by the 1864 decree led to a proliferation of venues, which were sometimes temporary. Their increasingly diverse range of guises and programmes was also driven by the new recreations associated with the Universal Exhibitions as for the auditorium space of the Palais du Trocadéro in 1878 or the Théâtre de la Tour Eiffel in the wake of the 1889 exhibition.

With their discerning approach to programming and the high degree of stylistic freedom they encouraged, these venues attracted avant-garde architects such as Guimard. Echoing these new experiments, the boundaries between architecture and entertainment became porous with an unconventional decorative façade designed by Grasset for the Théâtre du Chat Noir bringing architectural interest to the street, and conversely, architecture students at the Paris School of Fine arts leaving the studio during the Bal des Quat’z’Arts carnival to organize shadow theatres.

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