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Happy Birthday, Eiffel Tower!

March 25th, 2019

Installation view, Construction of the Eiffel Tower by Theophile Feau, April 1888 to April 1889.

Standing tall over the skyline of Paris, the Eiffel Tower turns 130 years old on March 31. What better way to celebrate its anniversary than with a visit to the AGO for Impressionism in the Age of Industry: Monet, Pissarro and more? Come see the paintings, photographs and films that showcase the early years of the iconic landmark.

Georges Seurat. Eiffel Tower, c.1889. Oil on panel, Overall: 24.1 × 15.2 cm. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum purchase, William H. Noble Bequest Fund 1979.48.    

Originally nicknamed La Dame de Fer (Iron Lady), Parisians have always had a rocky relationship with their most iconic and globally recognized national emblem. When it was first unveiled ahead of the Paris World’s Fair of 1889, the 906-foot Eiffel Tower was the tallest structure in the world. The Tower was designed to celebrate the progress of science and technology in France – the theme of the World’s Fair. During this time the people of Paris despised it, considering it to be a towering eyesore in their newly constructed city. Some even signed a protest letter. But after the Tower was finished the criticism lost steam, and it received two million visitors during the World’s Fair.

Shortly before its unveiling, artist Georges Seurat completed his painting Eiffel Tower, showing the incomplete top piece of the tower. This portrait of the Tower uses a classic Impressionist technique called pointillism, using small dots to create a sense of the image and give the Tower the appearance of being draped in a luxurious gown of pastel-coloured roses. You can see this painting and more images of the Eiffel Tower in Impressionism in the Age of Industry: Monet, Pissarro and more.

Want more? Check out Thomas Edison’s 1900 film Panorama of Eiffel Tower (video courtesy of the Library of Congress), in which the Tower made its film debut.

Impressionism in the Age of Industry: Monet, Pissarro and more is on view now until May 5. Tickets are available at AGO.ca.

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