Painting and Sculpture, were visual art disciplines, once of high importance to the French Monarchy. High levels of such pride, mirrored the artistic importance of the French Capital over the centuries.

By Caoimhe Clements: Arts COLUMNIST

Think of the Louvre, one of most visited and influential museums in the world. The Museum was first opened in the summer of 1793, however the louvre had another sole purpose, once occupied as a palace to the French Monarchy.

For centuries, artists flocked to Paris for a variety of reasons: to educate themselves, pursue new inspiration from the French artistic resources and galleries and to engage in modernised art practices. How did Paris become capable of such greatest and influence? 

A New Paris

Paris, once was called a ‘dark gloomy city’ as it held the traumatic memories of the French Revolution (5th May 1789 – 9th November 1799). Nevertheless, under the rule of Napoleon III, George Eugene Haussmann had an exciting vision for a ‘New Paris’. This personal vision would later impact the 20th Century with a greater influence on modernism art practices.

Haussmann’s personal response to ‘old Paris’ led to 20 years of reconstruction, the BBC once described as ‘Haussmann turned Paris into a titanic building site for 20 years.’

Paris was redesigned for a variety of reasons: modernise the city for better health; more green spaces, wider streets allowed health benefits and the start of a new era, which was promising and intriguing to the world.


Paris is a thriving centre of artistic activity, the 20th century continued to be a magnet for artists as the French Capital became the birthplace for some of the principal innovations of Modernism.

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The Impressionism movement begun to challenge the boundaries of art, their mindset, motivations and intentions.

Photo: Sebastian Yepes

Paris became the centre of 20th century art as it gave artists what they needed; from educational supposes to expanding their horizons and opening their minds to new artistic opportunities and techniques. But why Paris?

In the 1800s Paris first witnessed a group of rebellion young artists, who later would be known as the Impressionists. The Impressionism movement begun to challenge the boundaries of art, their mindset, motivations and intentions where later adapted into the artistic practices of 1900s, their ambitious ways influence the next generation of artists in Paris, so much that the city became a magnet for artists throughout Europe. 

Modernism brought a new wave of freedom, through this experience more questions could be raised freely about the boundaries of art but what is art?. A question of high importance became very frequently asked; artists’ themselves question it every day, this impacted their colour palette, their subject matter and how oneself produced art.

As the 20th Century began to unfold, art movements in Paris continued to evolved; including Fauvism, Cubism, Abstract Art, Symbolism and Surrealism. Throughout the Century Paris continued to have an impact of the arts, their development and inspiration. Later, building a reputation as the City of Art.

MACKAYAN: Why paris was the centre for 20th century art.