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Liberal Arts - Expo Saint-Louis 1904

Liberal Arts at the Exhibition Expo Saint-Louis 1904
Architect(s) : Barnett, Haynés

At the north-east end of the main group of buildings, in opposition to the Palais des Transports which forms the north-west corner, and whose rectangular shape it has, the Palais des Arts-Libéraux is the most imposing, the most majestic of the Exhibition's constructions.

Its style is that of the French Renaissance; the architects have called on sculpture above all, and one senses an obvious effort towards the search for effect, for the grandiose.

A certain affectation in the decoration of the tops, the heavy columns supported on piles, the Corinthian capitals, the high cornices, the triumphal entrances evoking Roman arches and imperial monuments, all this majesty of the frontispieces may seem a little pretentious.

Nevertheless, the whole is imposing, striking and in no way banal.

The largest façade, 250 metres long, has a central pavilion and two pavilions at the ends.

The main entrances are hemicycle-shaped, with circular colonnades. The vault is covered with frescoes on an old gold background with decorations and ornaments in relief.

On the platform of these triumphal arches, and set back from them, rests a cubic mass of work that serves as a pedestal for an allegorical figure; on the cornices are truncated pyramids bearing statues.

Forming an elbow on the façade, rotundas with arcades supported by simple columns present the oscillation of their architecture and cut the rigidity of the tops and bases.

On the one hand, there is a profusion of decorations, not applied decorations, but sculpted decorations; on the other, geometric lines, square or rectangular portals, Doric columns.

The architects wanted to proceed by contrast. They have scrupulously observed the law, not only in the construction, but also in the interior decoration, where colours play the greatest role and are most often clashed, as required by the genre adopted.

The architecture is rather military, and the building, the figures and the attributes changed would be equally suitable for an army museum.

It is understandable that the visit inside will be easy. There is plenty of lighting; the same is true of all the other palaces.

Nothing has been done or left undone to make the visitor feel uncomfortable. Let us not forget that we are in America, in the country of wide, right-angled avenues, of well-aligned streets, where the squares with their statues, their basins, their trees are practically arranged in such a way that nothing slows down the pace of a bustling people.

The plan of the Palace is due to Messrs. Barnett and Haynés is of perfect simplicity and its arrangement is very conducive to the installation of exhibitors.

The ten entrances to the building form the axes of the sites, from east to west and from north to south.

The large allegorical frieze on the inner walls of the loggias is one of the most beautiful things in the whole building.

The murals are painted on an old gold background.

The interior is column-free and covered by a single truss.

There is an inner courtyard in the Italian style, surrounded by colonnades, embellished with statues and superb arabesques; with its flower beds, its large basin in the centre, where the graceful lines of the border columns are reflected, with its walls decorated with paintings in the most vivid colours, and its fountains which mask the corners with their finest and most fanciful sculptures, this courtyard offers the most charming place of relaxation: it delights the eye and makes one forget fatigue.

The visitor finds interest as much in the perfection of the objects displayed as in their variety. He sees the British coin collection, specimens of photography, musical instruments.

China exhibits old bindings, wood carvings, trophies, armour.

Germany stood out with its photographs, maps and the most modern printing machines.

The French section was represented by papers, photography, music, stained glass, and above all by its furnishings, carpets, hangings, tapestries, all the harmony of colours and the synthesis of nuances.

©Exposition internationale de Saint Louis 1904. Rapport général