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Moulin Rouge: a little bit of history!

The most famous cabaret of the world opens

On October 6th, 1889, at the bottom of the Montmartre Hillock, environment is with the festival: the opening in the Garden of Paris of a new Variety, the Moulin Rouge, does not pass unperceived. Side of the White Place, the public comes then presses some to discover this extravagant place: a gigantic track of dance, mirrors everywhere, a gallery where it is last knack to mix with the riff-raff, a decorated garden of an enormous elephant and walks on the back of donkey to amuse the ladies. An insane environment where the show is held as well on scene as in the room: aristocrats and hooligans with cap mix with in a merry complicity, crews of the beautiful quarters and ordinary people of Paris have fun together in the most total euphoria.

The Masters of the places are called Joseph Oller and Charles Zidler. They called their establishment the first Palace of the Women and bet on their success by proclaiming, with which wants to hear it, that the Moulin-Rouge will become most imposing of the temples of the music and the dance. As of the first day, their hopes are filled, the other Music Hall have only with good to be held.


Old time Moulin Rouge front


Montmartre, bastion of all the pleasures

In the middle of this effervescence, Ridges-Montmarte makes emblematic figure of place. In 1891, the basilica Notre-Dame of the Sacred Heart is inaugurated in large pump. Chapotant the Hillock Montmartre, one thus hopes to regild the blazon of this well malfamée hill. But contrary to any waiting, the cohabitation between this holy place and its more sulfurous sides gives an additional seal to this high place of Parisian life. Marginal, artists and travelling acrobats continue to attend the cabarets, Variety and coffees increasingly more while middle-class, aristocrats and demi-mondaines, attracted by the night pleasures will take their practices there. The café concerts become the symbol even of this social and cultural mixing. Blue-collar workers, artists, middle-class men and aristocrats find themselves with the same table in a merry frivolity and festive atmosphere. Among these artistic cabarets some will remain famous: the Black Cat, with its rich decorations carried out by Caran d' Ache, the Eunuch flute, the Madness-Shepherdess, the Moulin-Rouge… One listens to the anticonformist songs of Aristide Bruand there, cantor of the marginality, the prostitutes, the unemployed and all “lower classes” hitherto scorned by the artists.

The literary circles such as Hydropathes rested by the Gipsy Emile Goudeau or the Incoherent ones and their predilection for the political satire, have well-established there. The artist-painters find their inspiration there. Among them, Toulouse-Lautrec, faithful of the places, will immortalize these baroque scenes, coloured, halfway between the most insane Entertainment and the tragedy of the life of the lower classes in tables remained famous like the Black Cat or the Greedy one.


Moulin Rouge affiche


At the era of the 7th art

Side structures, Gustave EIFFEL, true genius of the architecture of iron launches out in its most insane project: a 300 height meters Tower which one will be able to admire of any place of Paris. It will be the main attraction of the World Fair of 1889.

Another major event of these years: the first meeting of cinematograph. On December 28th, 1895, in the Indian living room of Grand Café, boulevard of the Nasturtiums in Paris, the 23 guests of the Brothers Light will attend an extraordinary show.

On a small screen, the photography which has just been projected animates suddenly… Cars, horses, passers by are started, all the life of a street appears: “This show, we gaped, struck of stupor” declares the conjurer Georges Mélies, who will find the celebrity while realizing more than 500 films full with imagination and poetry whose remarkable “Travel in the moon” (1902).

For the following Exposure, that of 1900, it is Hector Guimard who will remain in annals. In the mobility of Art Nouveau, it gives an unequalled seal to the Parisian entries of subway. The White station will be the first to be profited from it: decorative arabesques and vegetable inflections will be handled there with an astonishing energy and a freedom.


La Belle Epoque

Unconcern, Lightness and Joie de Vivre… Here in three words what could best characterize this single period of the History of France. One moment of respite between two wars, one period of transition between two centuries, where the social barriers are deleted, where industrial progress gives to all the hope of better living, in a particularly rich cultural expansion and where one has fun much.

The middle-class men mix with the riff-raff, the popular culture is put at the honor in a merry disorder full with cheerfulness and vitality. In this context favourable with artistic creation, the literary circles are done and are demolished with the wire of the meetings while the painters and the illustrators are particularly inspired by this merry environment, sometimes outrageous but full with imagination, in rupture with the rigidity of the classicism in force.

Japonism, this current of Eastern inspiration which uses the influences of the Japanese style in French art, is with its apogee. Toulouse-Lautrec and its famous Japanese prints, are the disciple more shining. The decoration is in place for the appearance of the first cabarets of which that of the Moulin Rouge in 1889.


Moulin Rouge Dance room 1898



Ever since, Moulin Rouge is welcoming visitors honoring this magical place full of history. You can enjoy the fantastic Moulin Rouge show with or without dinner, booking is required.


Moulin Rouge
82 Boulevard de Clichy
75018 Paris, France
Metro station: Blanche