The Petit Palais was built for the 1900 Universal Exhibition, like its neighbour the Grand Palais, on avenue Winston Churchill. It became a museum in 1902. Designed by Charles Girault, it is based on a trapezium shape and is made up of four wings around a semi-circular garden bordered by a richly decorated peristyle. The architect achieved a successful blend of traditional and modern architecture which is evident in the natural flow of visitors around the building and in the bold openings he created onto the Champs-Elysées gardens and inner courtyard garden.
The Petit Palais houses a significant collection of decorative murals and sculptures created between 1903 and 1925. The architect Charles Girault wanted to lend his building the grandeur and dignity of an official palace and created a programme of work designed to glorify the City of Paris and to celebrate the benefits of art. The locations for the areas to be decorated were carefully chosen with this aim in mind. They are mainly in areas through which people need to pass – entrance lobbies, the garden peristyle and the staircase under the cupola. Only the two large exhibition galleries also have decorative murals. This decoration took over twenty years to complete.