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Rise of the Modern City

Discover the ways in which artists, photographers, and architects changed the landscape of modern cities.


The Tower

Robert Delaunay
(French, 1885–1941)

1910. Ink and pencil on paper, 21 1/4 x 19 1/4" (53.9 x 48.9 cm)

As the world’s tallest monument at the time, the Eiffel Tower was for Delaunay a symbol of both modernity and masculinity, and he depicted it time and again. He was among the first artists to focus on this Parisian landmark as a subject. Rather than represent the Eiffel Tower from one view, Delaunay’s drawing uses rhythmically placed lines and patterns to capture his experience of the tower from multiple perspectives.

The drawing is an example of Delaunay’s engagement with the dynamic architecture of Paris at the turn of the 20th century. The Eiffel Tower was just one of the exciting public projects undertaken during an era that would later be described as the Belle Époque (French for “beautiful era”). In comparison to the horrors of World War I that would follow it, the Belle Époque was a time of peace, invention, and intense art production for France and its neighbors.

French for “beautiful era,” a term that describes the period in French history beginning in 1890 and ending at the start of World War I in1914, which was characterized by optimism, relative peace across Europe, and new discoveries in technology and science.

A form, sign, or emblem that represents something else, often something immaterial, such as an idea or emotion.

The visual or narrative focus of a work of art.

A series of events, objects, or compositional elements that repeat in a predictable manner.

Modern can mean related to current times, but it can also indicate a relationship to a particular set of ideas that, at the time of their development, were new or even experimental.

A long mark or stroke.