Twilight of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Picasso, Stravinsky, Proust, Renault, Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein, and Their Friends through the Great War

Overview

Mary McAuliffe’s Dawn of the Belle Epoque took the reader from the multiple disasters of 1870–1871 through the extraordinary re-emergence of Paris as the cultural center of the Western world. Now, in Twilight of the Belle Epoque, McAuliffe portrays Paris in full flower at the turn of the twentieth century, where creative dynamos such as Picasso, Matisse, Stravinsky, Debussy, Ravel, Proust, Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, and Isadora Duncan set their respective circles on fire with a barrage of ...

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Twilight of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Picasso, Stravinsky, Proust, Renault, Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein, and Their Friends through the Great War

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Overview

Mary McAuliffe’s Dawn of the Belle Epoque took the reader from the multiple disasters of 1870–1871 through the extraordinary re-emergence of Paris as the cultural center of the Western world. Now, in Twilight of the Belle Epoque, McAuliffe portrays Paris in full flower at the turn of the twentieth century, where creative dynamos such as Picasso, Matisse, Stravinsky, Debussy, Ravel, Proust, Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, and Isadora Duncan set their respective circles on fire with a barrage of revolutionary visions and discoveries. Such dramatic breakthroughs were not limited to the arts or sciences, as innovators and entrepreneurs such as Louis Renault, André Citroën, Paul Poiret, François Coty, and so many others—including those magnificent men and women in their flying machines—emphatically demonstrated. But all was not well in this world, remembered in hindsight as a golden age, and wrenching struggles between Church and state as well as between haves and have-nots shadowed these years, underscored by the ever-more-ominous drumbeat of the approaching Great War—a cataclysm that would test the mettle of the City of Light, even as it brutally brought the Belle Epoque to its close. Through rich illustrations and evocative narrative, McAuliffe brings this remarkable era from 1900 through World War I to vibrant life.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Miranda Seymour
In a splendid previous work, Dawn of the Belle Epoque, Mary McAuliffe strikingly evoked the three flourishing decades of culture that followed France's humiliation by Germany and the never-to-be-forgotten crowning, in 1871, of a German emperor at Versailles. Now, in Twilight of the Belle Epoque, this brilliant social historian applies her novelistic approach with equal success to the early 20th century, interweaving a multitude of stories to create—through skillfully chosen glimpses into the lives of its most talented inhabitants—an unforgettable portrait of Paris…With uncommon skill, [McAuliffe] blends each ingredient of an incredible époque into a vivid and hugely enjoyable narrative of extraordinary times.
Publishers Weekly
12/23/2013
After the Franco-German War of 1871–1872, Paris experienced a remarkable artistic, literary, and scientific surge in the midst of immense political and religious turbulence, reshaping worldviews to embrace rapid change and immortalizing the period's innovators. McAuliffe (Dawn of the Belle Epoque) revisits this vibrant, controversial era and weaves brief chronological snapshots of the eponymous figures—plus others like Sarah Bernhardt and Émile Zola—and their (often long-suffering) companions throughout her narrative. Visual artists receive the most biographical attention, illuminating the rise and fall of Matisse's Fauvism and Picasso's transformation into cubism, while the Curies' heartbreaking story of love for science and each other balances out the art colonies' fatalistic frivolity. McAuliffe tries to include too much into an eminently readable but overstuffed narrative; for instance, technological advances and the formative experience of Charles de Gaulle barely make an impression after impassioned descriptions of the robust exploits of Stein, Picasso, and Zola. For Paris, the Belle Epoque and its dazzling cultural movement resulted in a shining period whose inverse would soon be felt in the desolation and decimation of the Great War. Illus. (Mar.)
Stéphane Kirkland
Twilight of the Belle Epoque provides an immensely enjoyable whirlwind account of the many artists, innovators, and dreamers of all stripes who were drawn to the City of Lights in the first years of the twentieth century to pursue their quest for glory.
Choice
Praise for Dawn of the Belle Epoque:

What a story [Mary McAuliffe] has to tell! In a world of breathtaking achievement in art, music, drama, dance, sculpture, literature, and occasionally even politics, the 'to-ings and fro-ings' of those synonymous with the period are set against the perpetual high drama that was the Third Republic. This gossipy soufflé . . . will entertain those who love the arts, French history, or Paris. . . . A fun read for all. Highly recommended.

Wall Street Journal
However tentative its beginning and disastrous its end, the Third Republic had its glories, as Mary McAuliffe reminds us in Twilight of the Belle Epoque. The years between 1870 and 1914 were a time when Paris could fairly claim to be the cultural capital of the world. This was the France of the Impressionists and post-Impressionists, of Rodin and the young Picasso, Matisse and Braque, the France of Proust and Gide, of Debussy and Ravel. Paris became the City of Light, the center of fashion. The cinema was born; the Métro was built. The Renault brothers and André Citroën created an automobile industry. Pierre and Marie Curie, discovering the properties of radium, prepared the way for advances that transformed the modern world.

In her panoramic chronicle, Ms. McAuliffe takes up all these topics, giving a year-by-year account of the second half of the era, just as she treated its first half in Dawn of the Belle Epoque (2011). Her strict chronological format creates a series of surprising juxtapositions: On one page, a young Charles de Gaulle marvels at a performance by Sarah Bernhardt ; on the next, Picasso walks around Paris wielding a gun passed down by the avant-garde troublemaker Alfred Jarry. This is a work of serious history, but has some of the easy charms of the coffee-table book and is full of gossip. (When Bernhardt's anti-Dreyfus son offends her during dinner, she angrily shatters a plate.) . . . All of Ms. McAuliffe's Belle Epoque moments, bright and foreboding, build to the horrors and glories of the war of 1914-18, in which France suffered losses of almost 1.5 million men, with some three million more wounded.

Quincy Herald-Whig
From 1900 through the beginning of World War I, Paris was the place to be if you were an artist, author, musician, scientist, or trendsetter of any kind. Some of the most famous names that helped shape history flocked to share ideas, garner support for their cause, or simply to soak up all that creativity. In the book Twilight of the Belle Epoque, author Mary McAuliffe follows up on her first book Dawn of the Belle Epoque to take readers back to this illustrious age and shows how the looming threat of violence in Europe brought an end to one of the most creative periods in history.
New York Times
In Twilight of the Belle Epoque, this brilliant social historian applies her novelistic approach . . . to the early 20th century, interweaving a multitude of stories to create—through skillfully chosen glimpses into the lives of its most talented inhabitants—an unforgettable portrait of Paris. . . . Deftly, McAuliffe gathers together the threads of her multiple tales for the arrival of that ultimate rite: war. Here, to her readers’ possible surprise, the artists and inventors emerge as heroes. . . . Summary reduces the various elements of McAuliffe’s marvelous book to a mere cocktail of events. Harder to convey is the subtlety of the mix. With uncommon skill, she blends each ingredient of an incredibleépoqueinto a vivid and hugely enjoyable narrative of extraordinary times.
Choice
Praise for Dawn of the Belle Epoque:

What a story [Mary McAuliffe] has to tell! In a world of breathtaking achievement in art, music, drama, dance, sculpture, literature, and occasionally even politics, the 'to-ings and fro-ings' of those synonymous with the period are set against the perpetual high drama that was the Third Republic. This gossipy soufflé . . . will entertain those who love the arts, French history, or Paris. . . . A fun read for all. Highly recommended.

ForeWord Reviews
Fascinating trivia about artists in turn-of-the-century Paris adds layers of insight to a time of growth and experimentation...McAuliffe is uniquely positioned to bring this crowded cast of characters to life. She does a thorough job of cataloging the wide range of artistic and scientific achievements while managing to also offer surprising tidbits that add texture to the narrative...McAuliffe’s knowledge of and enthusiasm for this time is evident on every page.
France Magazine
A sequel to her Dawn of the Belle Epoque, which took readers from the Franco-Prussian war to the 1900 Universal Exposition, McAuliffe’s Twilight introduces a new cast of characters. Picasso, Stravinsky, Proust, Marie Curie and Gertrude Stein are just a few of the creative dynamos who appear in the pages of this new volume—a lively account of an era of literary, artistic and technical innovation that ended with the world-altering tragedy of WWI.
Rachel Mesch
With Twilight of the Belle Epoque Mary McAuliffe offers a delightful romp through one of the most vibrant periods in French history, even as she elegantly captures the shadowslooming on the horizon.Those unfamiliar with this period will be awestruck by its riches, while connoisseurs will delight as McAuliffe brings to life the colorful cast of artists and innovators—from Picasso to Peugeot—who ushered in the twentieth century in the City of Light.
CHOICE
Praise for Dawn of the Belle Epoque:

What a story [Mary McAuliffe] has to tell! In a world of breathtaking achievement in art, music, drama, dance, sculpture, literature, and occasionally even politics, the 'to-ings and fro-ings' of those synonymous with the period are set against the perpetual high drama that was the Third Republic. This gossipy soufflé . . . will entertain those who love the arts, French history, or Paris. . . . A fun read for all. Highly recommended.

Booklist
Praise for Dawn of the Belle Epoque:

Today, Paris retains its allure as a mecca for lovers of art, fashion, and high culture. To an extent, that allure is a legacy of the Belle Epoque. . . . As the term indicates, this was an era of wonderful cultural flowering. . . . McAuliffe tracks, on a year-by-year basis, this explosion of artistic expression. She does not ignore the seamy underside of this glittering picture. . . . This is an excellent and honest portrayal of an exciting and vital era in European history.

French History
Praise for Dawn of the Belle Epoque:

McAuliffe’s deep research in both primary and secondary sources, combined with her skilled reconstruction of social and professional networks, results in a wealth of fascinating, roughly interwoven biographies and historical events. . . . [I]t is an evocative and pleasurable read.

French Studies
Praise for Dawn of the Belle Epoque:

Mary McAuliffe’s book is a charming and detailed meander through the lives of the writers and artists who lived and worked in Paris. . . . Each chapter describes a year in the life of the French capital, during which the author depicts the major Parisian events and provides a fascinating variety of anecdotes, little-known facts, and background detail that any connoisseur of the city will relish. . . . The result is an informative and evocative guide to late nineteenth-century Paris that would be an ideal accompaniment to a stay in the capital. . . . A most entertaining and readable account of a fascinating era and will be useful to both students of Paris and visitors alike.

Washington Independent Review of Books
Praise for Dawn of the Belle Epoque:

McAuliffe has added a truly remarkable degree of insight into both the lives of the participants and the turbulent world they inhabited. McAuliffe paints with broad, majestic strokes a world that has been lost to us or perhaps never was.

The New York Journal of Books
Praise for Dawn of the Belle Epoque:

Reads more like a novel than an academic history. . . . Rich with the flavor of words taken from primary sources, the book provides an intimate look at the very human side of history. . . . Today's Paris rose from war and ashes, as Mary McAuliffe's Dawn of the Belle Epoque so eloquently proves.

Contemporary French Civilization
Praise for Dawn of the Belle Epoque:

McAuliffe should be strongly commended for corralling such an immense amount of data into a tightly paced, informative, and highly readable compendium. The book is sure to delight readers as much as it informs them.

The Collected Traveller
Praise for Dawn of the Belle Epoque:

Unique and insightful. . . . In each chapter we are introduced to the key personalities and events of the era, often through excerpts from letters or diaries. I felt like I was a part of the personal lives of everyone, and by the time I finished the book I had a deeper understanding of the (real life) characters, even those I already knew a lot about. . . . The struggles and events of these years have continued to influence French politics and society right up to the present day.

Library Journal
02/01/2014
McAuliffe follows up her Dawn of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel, Debussy, Clemenceau, and Their Friends with this book taking readers forward a few decades. It's actually not so much a history of a time as a collection of biographies—over 30 of them—of early 20th-century French inventors, politicians, and artists. The author divides the book by year, with each chapter relating significant events in the life of the main subjects during that one year. Unfortunately, because the subjects did not necessarily know one another, or share any interests, each biographical segment is disconnected from the portions before and after it. Because 50 to 100 pages can separate the portions about a particular person, the reader may find it a challenge to keep track of any particular subject's life and will need to resort to the index. Nonetheless, McAuliffe has an eye for the evocative, using quotes—and salacious details—to bring these early 20th-century men and women to life, several of whom—Rodin, Zola, the Curies—were covered in her previous book (she orients readers in case they did not read that volume). The author excels at including material about women throughout. VERDICT Recommended for readers who enjoyed the previous volume and for biography junkies.—Jessica Spears, Monroe Coll. Lib., Bronx, NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442221635
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/16/2014
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 67,769
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary McAuliffe holds a PhD in history from the University of Maryland, has taught at several universities, and lectured at the Smithsonian Institution. She has traveled extensively in France, and for many years she was a regular contributor to Paris Notes. Her books include Paris Discovered, Dawn of the Belle Epoque, and Clash of Crowns. She lives in New York City with her husband.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Chapter 1: Enter the King (1900)
Chapter 2: Bohemia on the Seine (1900)
Chapter 3: Death of a Queen (1901)
Chapter 4: Dreams and Reality (1902)
Chapter 5: Arrivals and Departures (1903)
Chapter 6: Alliances and Misalliances (1904)
Chapter 7: Wild Beasts (1905)
Chapter 8: La Valse (1906)
Chapter 9: Winds of Change (1907)
Chapter 10: Unfinished Business (1908)
Chapter 11: Idyll (1909)
Chapter 12: Deep Waters (1910)
Chapter 13: Between Heaven and Hell (1911)
Chapter 14: Dancing on the Edge (1912)
Chapter 15: Fireworks (1913)
Chapter 16: "Dear France, dear country" (1914)
Chapter 17: "This war which never ends" (1914–1915)
Chapter 18: "Ils ne passeront pas" (1916)
Chapter 19: Dark Days (1917)
Chapter 20: Finale (1918)
Bibliography

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