By the end of the 19th century, Paris had become the heart of avant-garde activity and experimentation. Created for the Exposition Universelle held in Paris and completed in 1889, the Eiffel Tower was a resounding symbol of ingenuity and technical advancement. Modernity reigned; fashion and entertainment illuminated Paris, and districts like Montmartre became particularly well-known for the dance halls and café-concerts that animated them. Depicting both the more disreputable side of social amusement and the showy side of celebrity, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s portrayals of cabarets and performers are pulsating illustrations of bohemian life in the 1890s.
Non-French artists, such as Amedeo Modigliani (Italian), Chaim Soutine (Russian), and Pablo Picasso (Spanish), came to Paris, joining French counterparts like Henri Rousseau, and invented new and modern forms of expression. Electrified by the creative energy and the public love of art, these painters prompted one another to achieve. A look at their work reveals both an engagement with earlier art forms and an indication of 20th-century modernism.