Characteristics of the Belle Époque

La Belle Époque is a French expression that means ” beautiful era ” and corresponds to the period of history between the end of the 19th century (end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870) and the beginning of the First World War in 1914, corresponding also to the time of the French Third Republic .

It is a period in which numerous technological, political, social, economic and, above all, cultural advances occurred. The two European capitals that best illustrate the Belle Époque are Paris and Vienna.

Characteristics and historical context

This era owes its name to a bourgeoisie that lives off its income, approves of progress and cultural creations and travels a lot.

The French Republic enters its Golden Age with the Universal Exposition of 1889, which celebrates the centenary of the Revolution with the construction of the Eiffel Tower, the tallest tower ever built and Gustave Eiffel’s masterpiece.

The year before, Louis Pasteur raises enough money to found the world’s first scientific research center.

The economy resumed its growth after the end of a long depression (1873-1892) and many French people improved their living conditions.

The working class emerged from poverty and benefited from some social laws, such as Sunday rest (1907) and vacations (1910), although it continued to endure hard work days for fear of unemployment.

The French enjoy a strong democracy and are proud to have the only republic on the European continent.

Tassel Hotel in Brussels in 1892 , the work of Belgian architect Victor Horta, inaugurated Art Nouveau (a French expression meaning “new art”): the use of glass, steel and colored materials, volutes and lines curves and plant decoration.

A little later, in 1894, this movement reached painting through the Czech artist Alfons Mucha, established in Paris.

Art Nouveau would then spread rapidly throughout Europe. In addition to Mucha, many artists and writers such as Hector Guimard, Louis Majorelle, Antonio Gaudí, Gustav Klimt, Toulouse-Lautrec and Oscar Wilde adhere to it.

Significant events of the period

  • Invention of cinema by the Lumière brothers (1895).
  • First Olympic Games of the modern era (Athens, 1896).
  • Construction of the first metro line in Paris (1900).
  • First cycling competition of the Tour de France (1903).
  • Pierre and Marie Curie share with Henri Becquerel the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of radioactivity (1903).
  • Albert Einstein publishes the Theory of Relativity (1905).
  • Marcel Proust publishes the first volume of the work ” In Search of Lost Time ” (1913).