Universal and International Exhibition of Paris 1900

The balance sheet of a century

April 15, 1900-November 12, 1900


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Breton village

Breton village at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1900

Artists, men of letters, painters and musicians made up the committee that organised the Breton Exhibition. Among them we will mention the composer Bourgault-Ducoudray, the poets Olivier de Gourcuff, Eugène le Mouël, Léon Durocher, the inspector of Fine Arts,. Armand Dayot, etc. The project submitted to them by the architect Félix Ollivier, a Breton from Guingamp, was unanimously approved. Mr. Ollivier expressed his intention to create a Breton village in which all the elements, judiciously chosen, would contribute to a synthesis of Armorican art. More particularly, he wanted, after recalling the megalithic period, to make known the Breton architecture of the 16th century, such as it flourished, in a thousand stone delicacies, in the Finistère region. It is in fact in Finistère, in the deep Léon region as well as in the pleasant countryside of Quimper, that the finest, boldest and most characteristic of these monuments, which amaze tourists, were built.


A programme carried out with rare success. Here, first of all, is an imposing megalithic manifestation: the menhir of Locmariaker, an enormous monolith of which the obelisk of Louqsor could be jealous, and the Table of Caesar, which can also be seen at Locmariaker. Next to it stands an inn; a thatched cottage rather than a house, this inn which, with its walls formed of narrow and long raised stones, marks the transition between the rudimentary druidic buildings and the first attempts at a less frugal construction in the age that followed.

Here and there the eye is drawn to picturesque reconstructions: the fountain of Sainte-Barbe du Faouët, the calvary of Lannion, the colonnade of the cloister of La Forêt, the pylon of Pencran, the gateway to the cemetery of La Martyre, the aedicula of Saint-Jean-du-Doigt... These various monuments are scattered, in perfect taste, around the Breton Exhibition. One goes from one to the other; one leans over the cute Saint Barbara who, from the depths of her niche, protects the famous fountain; one goes to talk about Saint-Jean-du-Doigt with the embroiderer who has a shop under the pedicle dedicated to the saint or to watch the Briochin Lecomte forge nail files on the spot. As a boulevardier remarked the other day that the Bretons are not in the habit of taking care of their nails, Lecomte replied sharply: "I want them to take care of them from now on, if only to defend themselves! Then we linger to contemplate the pietà of the Calvary of Lannion, faithfully reproduced by the sculptor Hernot, as well as the four figurines of the Virgin and Saints Brieuc, Fiacre, Yves, from end to end on the arms of the cross, and finally we enter to drink a "bowl" of cider "goulevant" in the Hostellerie de la Duchesse-Anne

In the middle of the Breton Exhibition, you can see a noble residence of Renaissance architecture, such as can still be seen in the old towns of Brittany, with gables made of wood and stone, and a number of pretty ornamental motifs imitated in particular from Morlaix houses. At a corner near the entrance door, a biniou player appears in the relief of an expressive sculpture. And one could not admire a more exact reproduction of one of these authentic Breton dwellings made of granite
Where one dreams of making a supreme stop,
than this "Hostellerie" built by M. Ollivier in the centre of a complex where everything is harmonious and significant. The architect has achieved his goal: it is a whole Brittany in a nutshell that is offered to the visitor.

On the first floor of the Hostellerie de la Duchesse-Anne, a vast room welcomes, every Sunday, the public eager to applaud Breton poets, songwriters and musicians. There, while outside, bombards and binious rage, the orchestra composed of the "Sonneurs" Alain Guéguen, from Pont-Labbé, and François Laleson, from Quimper, in music and verse, Brittany is celebrated, under the very artistic direction of Léon Durocher and Pierre Laurent. One hears stanzas by Louis Tiercelin, Charles Le Goffic, Eugène Le Moue, Emile Michelet, Olivier de Gourcuff, Fleuriot-Kérinou, Charles Bernard, Yves Berthou, and melodies by Bourgault-Ducoudray, Emile Durand, etc. This is the Breton Cabaret. These Sunday meetings, in the hostelry of the "good duchess in clogs", are the rendezvous of all the Bretons of Paris, and, between two songs, they devoutly contemplate the interior frieze where the painter Fouqueray has made the history of Breton costume.
On 17 May last, the Breton Federation of Paris gave a banquet at the "Hostellerie" under the honorary presidency of Mr. Tarte, Minister of Canada, Commissioner General of the Exhibition. At this banquet, which will be followed by many other "assemblies" of the same kind - the word is Breton! - the memory of Jacques Cartier, the Malouin who discovered Canada, was celebrated.

©Illustré Soleil du Dimanche