At the turn of the century, Jean-Marc Côté and other French artists were eagerly looking forward to what the new century would bring.

The year 2000 was especially interesting to them. They visualized all of the technical advances and innovations humanity would enjoy one hundred years hence. Their imaginings were documented in a set of picture cards, 87 in all, for La Exposition Universelle 1900 in Paris. These wonderful pictures are collectively called En L’An 2000 (“In The Year 2000”).

The artists lived in a world Their ideas ranged from household cleaning powered by electricity to farm animals that could be easily manufactured and crops that could be harvested remotely.

Three years after the artists created these cards, Orville Wright piloted the first rudimentary flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina…


… which makes it especially impressive the artists were already designing combat aircrafts and small planes and Air Firefighters.

The artists liked the idea of flying, but they also thought we should spend more time underwater.

Amusement and grooming would have evolved to meet the demands of the 21st century. A new-fangled barber would be required, amongst other things.

It must be noted, however, that occasionally the artists became a little too imaginative. For the record, Old Spirituals does not recommend chemical dinners or radium fireplaces.


These pictures were primarily created in 1899, 105 years before podcasting became a common way to listen to the news, and 108 years before the first iPhone.

It proves Albert Einstein was right when he said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”

We haven’t gotten around to teaching students through wired devices powered by a crank but somewhere, someone is probably working on it.

At the turn of the century, the French artist Albert Matignon (1860-1937) became fascinated with opium.

Morphine (1905)

Matignon became somewhat well-known after painting Morphine in 1905. He was one of only a few artists who were bold enough to delve into drug and alcohol-related themes.

Two women passed out in an alcove at an opium den

By 1911, he had seen the seedier side of opiates. That year he exhibited a painting of a ghostly woman smoking in an opium den and called it le vampire de l’opium. The painting captures a young woman, in the final stages of physical and mental decay, still clinging to the opium pipe that was the source of all her troubles.

Le vampire de l’opium (1911)

Joyeux Halloween!

Today’s post is about Nadar, the great French photographer and certainly one of the most interesting people I’ve come across.

Nadar was born Gaspard-Félix Tournachon in Paris in April of 1820 to middle-class parents. His father was a publisher and bookseller, but not a very successful one. Victor Tournachon went broke in 1833 and died a few years later, when his son was 17 years old.

Initially, young Gaspard-Félix was interested in becoming a doctor, particularly the emerging field of psychology. He was a bright student – but after his father’s death, he left school and joined the bohemian life in the poorer quarters of the city. It was there that Nadar acquired the nickname that he is known by today. The young man had a curious habit of adding “dar” to the end of some words, just to make them longer (loquaciousdar?). This vocal tic delighted his friends, who dubbed him Tournachon-dar. Later this was shortened to Tournadar, and finally evolved to its final form: Nadar.

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