ExhibitionsIn the City of Light: Paris, 1850–1920
Past Exhibition

In the City of Light: Paris, 1850–1920

September 1 – December 31, 2023



Members and Museum Pass: Free
Not-Yet-Members: $18.50

This exhibition serves as a guide through the architecture, people, and culture of the dynamic, visionary French capital during the latter half of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century. Théophile Steinlen, Henri-Gabriel Ibels, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Honoré Daumier, Édouard Vuillard, and other artists explored Parisian life through their subjective lenses, resulting in the kaleidoscope of impressions featuring the luxuries and hardships of city life, both public and private. As they immortalized the sights of Notre-Dame, dancers at the Folies Bergère, and the promenading bourgeoisie on the boulevards, they also captured bustling street markets, absinthe drinkers in cafés, and the pursuits of beggars, buskers, and the working class. Through prints, drawings, photographs, and sculptures from the High’s rich holdings and significant loans from local private collections, this exhibition is an intimate exploration of the paradigmatic modern metropolis that is the City of Light.

Paris, January 15, 1911—Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, 1911

Avenue du Bois de Boulogne opened in 1854 to connect the Place de l’Etoile (site of the Arc de Triomphe) with the Bois de Boulogne, the new public park on the west end of Paris. Nearly four hundred feet wide and more than three-quarters of a mile long, the avenue’s sidewalks and riding paths, ornamental lawns and exotic flower plantings provided a grand stage for fashionable Parisians to promenade from the center of the city to the park in their carriages and (later) expensive motorcars. Renamed Avenue Foch in 1929, the street remains one of the most prestigious addresses in Paris.

Jacques‑Henri Lartigue (French, 1894–1986), Paris, January 15, 1911—Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, 1911, gelatin silver print, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, gift of Frederick F. Hardin, 1990.30.

Jacques‑Henri Lartigue (French, 1894–1986) Paris, January 15, 1911—Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, 1911

La Lanterne: Voilà L’Ennemi!, 1902

The basilica of Sacré-Cœur (Sacred Heart) was conceived as a gesture of atonement after France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, which conservative politicians attributed to the country’s moral decline. Strategically sited at the top of Montmartre, the construction was financed by public subscription and lasted from 1875 to 1914. In this poster advertising La Lanterne, a French liberal-progressive newspaper with an anticlerical agenda, the iconic silhouette of the church is invoked to symbolize and denounce a conservative moral and political order that, from a radical political stance, was suffocating the modern City of Light in a shroud of darkness.

Eugène Ogé (French, 1861–1936), La Lanterne: Voilà L’Ennemi!, 1902, color lithograph, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, gift of Cox Communications, 2013.285.

Eugène Ogé French, 1861–1936 La Lanterne: Voilà L’Ennemi!, 1902

Portrait of Sarah Bernhardt in the Costume of Doña Sol, ca. 1877

The Parisian Sarah Bernhardt (born Henriette-Rosine Bernard, 1844–1923) was perhaps the most celebrated stage actress of her generation. She made several theatrical tours around the world and was one of the first prominent actresses to make sound recordings and act in motion pictures. Nadar’s photo shows the actress in the costume of Doña Sol from Hernani, an early historical play by Victor Hugo whose 1830 premiere resulted in a brawl because of its revolutionary theme.

Nadar (pseudonym for Gaspard-Félix Tournachon) (French, 1820–1910), Portrait of Sarah Bernhardt in the Costume of Doña Sol, ca. 1877, platinum print, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase, 74.168.

Portrait of Sarah Bernhardt in the Costume of Doña Sol, ca. 1877

Madame Réjane in Madame Sans‑Gêne, ca. 1899

Madame Réjane was the stage name of Gabrielle Charlotte Réju (1856–1920), a French actress popular in vaudeville and founder of the Théâtre Réjane in 1905. She appeared in Madame Sans-Gêne as the heroine Caterina Hubscher, a spirited French washer during the French Revolution who married her way into Napoleon I’s court. Madame Réjane’s performance was so beloved that she led the show on tour to New York, London, and South Africa and starred in the Hollywood film production in 1911.

Henri de Toulouse‑Lautrec (French, 1864–1901), Madame Réjane in Madame Sans‑Gêne, ca. 1899, lithograph, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, gift of Mrs. Ralph K. Uhry for the Ralph K. Uhry Collection, 55.140.

Henri de Toulouse‑Lautrec French, 1864–1901 Madame Réjane in Madame Sans‑Gêne

Winter in Paris, 1879

Place Breda, the main image of this etching, no longer exists but was once a busy hub in Félix Buhot’s neighborhood of Montmartre. The scene shows life in that working-class district during the coldest winter then on record, with shivering carriage drivers, hurrying delivery men, street sweepers battling snow and ice. Buhot’s most original contribution to etching were his “symphonic margins”—scenes that surround and amplify the principal image, such as a long view of skaters on the Seine near the Pont Neuf at bottom right and horses crashing and dying in the icy streets at left.

Félix Buhot (French, 1847–1898), Winter in Paris, 1879, etching, aquatint, and drypoint, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase for the Ralph K. Uhry Collection in honor of James P. Furniss, President of the Board of the Directors, 1980‑82, 1981.104.

Félix Buhot French, 1847–1898 Winter in Paris, 1879

Notre-Dame Cathedral Seen from the Quai de la Tournelle, 1922

The Gothic cathedral of Notre-Dame stands on the Île de la Cité, an island in the Seine. It is one of the most widely recognized symbols of the French nation and the most visited monument in Paris. This photograph by Atget gives prominence to Notre-Dame’s iconic slender spire, which was added to the structure in the 1800s during restorations inspired by Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. The spire was destroyed in 2019 by a devastating fire and is undergoing restoration.

Eugène Atget (French, 1857–1927), Notre-Dame Cathedral Seen from the Quai de la Tournelle, 1922, albumen silver print, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, anonymous gift, 2014.504.

Eugène Atget French, 1857–1927 Notre-Dame Cathedral Seen from the Quai de la Tournelle, 1922

Bust of Victor Hugo, 1883

Victor Hugo (1802–1885) is most widely known for his Romantic novels The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831) and Les Misérables (1862), which through numerous adaptations on stage and in film have indelibly shaped our image of historical Paris. However, Hugo was also an acclaimed playwright and poet and an elected parliamentarian whose liberal politics earned him fifteen years of exile on the island of Guernsey. When Hugo returned to Paris in 1870, he was hailed as a national hero—people purchased his photographic portraits, cities erected statues to him, and at his death, more than two million people joined the funeral procession. This bust by Auguste Rodin was made for a multifigure monument two years before Hugo’s death.

Auguste Rodin (French, 1840–1917), Bust of Victor Hugo, 1883, bronze, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase with funds given in memory of James F. Schwartz, M.D., 2002.71.

Auguste Rodin French, 1840–1917 Bust of Victor Hugo, 1883

The Dog Song, ca. 1876–1877

Emma Valadon (1837–1913), known on stage as Thérésa, was a singer at cafés-concerts and cabarets who reached a height of popularity during the 1860s and 1870s. “The Dog Song” was one of several comedic, sometimes vulgar, numbers that Valadon performed; others included “The Bearded Woman” and “The Bear Sitter.” Edgar Degas displays her physical performance style in action, with arms bent in imitation of a dog and mouth open wide. He was careful to express the harsh stage lighting, further dramatizing her features and movement.

Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917), The Dog Song, ca. 1876–1877, lithograph, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase, 2014.284.

Edgar Degas French, 1834–1917 The Dog Song, ca. 1876–1877

This exhibition is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Premier Exhibition Series Sponsor 

Premier Exhibition Series Supporters

ACT Foundation, Inc.
William N. Banks, Jr.
Cousins Foundation
Burton M. Gold
Sarah and Jim Kennedy 

Benefactor Exhibition Series Supporters 

Robin and Hilton Howell  

Ambassador Exhibition Series Supporters

Mrs. Fay S. Howell/The Howell Fund
Karen and Jeb Hughes/Corporate Environments
Loomis Charitable Foundation
The Fred and Rita Richman Fund
Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot
Mrs. Harriet H. Warren
Elizabeth and Chris Willett 

Contributing Exhibition Series Supporters 

Farideh and Al Azadi 
Sandra and Dan Baldwin
Mr. Joseph H. Boland, Jr.
Mr. and Mrs. Robin E. Delmer
Peggy Foreman
Mr. and Mrs. Baxter Jones
Joel Knox and Joan Marmo 
Margot and Danny McCaul 
Wade A. Rakes II and Nicholas Miller
USI Insurance Services 

Generous support is also provided by  

Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund , Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Fund , Barbara Stewart Exhibition Fund, Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund, Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Fund, The Fay and Barrett Howell Exhibition Fund, Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, Helen S. Lanier Endowment Fund, John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Exhibition Endowment Fund, Katherine Murphy Riley Special Exhibition Endowment Fund, Margaretta Taylor Exhibition Fund, RJR Nabisco Exhibition Endowment Fund.