The Beaux-Arts style of architecture first appeared in Europe in the mid-19th century and can be char-acterized as a blending of classical, Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo elements to create a new type of bold, large-scale, and noble construction. The epicenter of this new stylistic development was the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where this type of historicism formed the core of the architecture curriculum. The style is best exemplified in Paris by the Opéra, built by Charles Garnier in the 1860s, and it became popular in the United States after it was introduced in the "White City" of the World's Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893. Here, the idea of the "City Beautiful," with its grand Neo-Baroque boulevards, clean streets, and opulent marble architecture, cultivated a new interest in beautifying the crowded, dirty industrial cities of the United States.
   Money was not lacking during the "gilded age" of the 1880s through the 1920s, when wealthy philanthropists in the United States sought to carve out their fame through the construction of opera houses, libraries, museums, government buildings, and massive private mansions. These clients favored the Beaux-Arts style of Richard Morris Hunt and Charles Follen McKim, both of whom trained at the École in Paris. McKim, Mead, and White's completion of the Boston Public Library in 1895, done in the Beaux-Arts style, coincided with Hunt's commission for the construction of the Beaux-Arts Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Not to be out-done by construction in Boston, however, New York City officials campaigned for donations to build the New York Public Library, which was begun in 1902 by the little-known architects John Carrère and Thomas Hastings, both of whom had studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. At the time of its completion, the New York Public Library was the largest marble building in the United States.
   Finally, Grand Central Terminal, from 1903, was built in this same style by the architectural firm of Whitney Warren and Charles Wetmore. Thus, not 10 years after the introduction of the ideal Beaux-Arts city at the Chicago Exposition, New York City was well on its way to transforming itself into this model. By the 1920s, however, European modern architecture, with its sparer appearance and clean lines, was beginning to filter into the United States; it created a sharp aesthetic contrast to the Beaux-Arts style, which was increasingly seen as too opulent and overblown. Finally, the Wall Street crash of 1929 signaled the end of the Beaux-Arts tradition, and post-World War I architecture came to be oriented toward entirely different concerns.

Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts. . 2008.

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