Artists and writers from around the world found their way to Paris, where they created some of their most significant work. Among those in the city were Blaise Cendrars (Swiss), Marc Chagall (Russian), Sonia Delaunay (Russian), Amedeo Modigliani (Italian), Francis Picabia (Spanish), Pablo Picasso (Spanish), Man Ray (American), Chaïm Soutine (Russian), and Tristan Tzara (Romanian). The modernity of Paris was emblematized by the Eiffel Tower, not only because of its still-novel metal structure but also because of the radio antenna at its top. The new medium of the radio, or Télégraphie sans fil, fascinated writers and artists alike as its invisible waves connected with the world. As a red silhouette at the bottom of Sonia Delaunay’s images for La Prose du transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France, as a metallic grid in Fernand Léger’s depiction of the end of the world in La Fin du monde filmée par l’ange N.-D., as a shepherdess tending her flock of Parisian bridges, as envisioned by Guillaume Apollinaire in the poem “Zone”—the Eiffel Tower became the sign of Paris’ modernity.
In Apollinaire’s “Zone,” the description of everyday life in Paris is a medley of powerful impressions: cars, newspapers, airplanes, billboards, cafés, crowds. However, the title also implies that the modern urban experience is somehow enclosed within the circumference of this imaginary zone, or is like the Zone of Paris photographed by Eugène Atget: a no man’s land full of the city’s marginalized people and material garbage. The poet’s modern city seems to be an indeterminate area in which everyday experience is transformed into a work of art.