Art Nouveau in France, Episode 97


Art Nouveau in FranceArt Nouveau in France

Today Elyse explains the Art Nouveau movement in France, in particular, Hector Guimard and the specifics of how this art movement manifested itself in France.

Art Nouveau happened in many countries, but under different names and with different stylistic choices. In England for instance it was called "The Modern Style". This movement began in Scotland but soon took off in many countries. It only lasted officially for 20 years, from 1890 until 1910. In France, Belgium and Catalonia gave shape to the idea that nature needed to be represented in all its organic forms, with curvy lines and pleasant shapes.

Episode Highlights

  • Art Nouveau in France
  • Daum, Gallé and Lalique in the city of Nancy
  • The Difference Between Art Nouveau and Art Déco
  • Where to See Art Nouveau in Paris
  • French Tip of the Week [1:05]

Art Nouveau in France

On a timeline you would have Belle Époque, then Art Nouveau, then Art Déco. Every time a style gets over-done and over the top, there is a reaction and a new style becomes in vogue.  Opéra Garnier is cited as an example of over-done Belle Époque. Gaudi in Barcelona is cited as an example of over-done Art Nouveau.

An example of Art Nouveau in France

Art Nouveau works extremely well on a "small" scale: furniture, decorative elements, jewelry, lamps (Tiffany lamps for instance). But as soon as you take it to a bigger scale it stops being so pleasing and feels like a circus act.

Art Nouveau creators believed in one-of-a-kind production, rejected the idea of industrial production for any of their work. Hence this art form remained expensive and inaccessible to the masses.

The Métropolitain entrances in Paris, many of them designed by Hector Guimard, were condemned as "too sexy" by a segment of the population who saw curvy lines as too suggestive somehow or other.

When you go visit the Orsay Museum, do not miss the Art Nouveau furniture exhibit, it is gorgeous and often ignored by visitors.

Art Nouveau Antoni Gaudi Casa Batlo
Antoni Gaudi Casa Batlo in Barcelona, photo Shaun Dunmall.

Daum, Gallé and Lalique in the city of Nancy

The School of Nancy is the most important place to visit if you love Art Nouveau. That is where you can see the Museum of the École de Nancy, the Majorelle Villa, rue Félix Faure, the Saurupt neighborhood, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Meurthe et Moselle, the old grain store on rue Saint Jean, the Crédit Lyonnais glass dome, the Excelsior Brasserie and the Daum Collection at the Fine Art Museum of Nancy. Daum, Gallé and Lalique created the school of Nancy devoted to art nouveau and turned out gorgeous furniture, vases, crystals, glass pieces. The Lalique and Daum companies still exist.

Daum vase in Nancy from 1900
Daum vase in Nancy from 1900.

The Difference Between Art Nouveau and Art Déco

Art Déco followed Art Nouveau and marked a return towards simpler lines, fewer overlays, details can be floral but the overall lines are simple. Art Déco also has no problem with industrial production and as a result became popular with the public. There are beautiful examples of Art Déco all over the world, and it also lasted a lot longer, between WWI and our times. The Gare de l'Est in Paris is Art Déco.

Where to See Art Nouveau in Paris

Art Nouveau is sprinkled all over Paris, as a matter of fact, one of the best references for it is this Wikipedia page which lists Art Nouveau works in every arrondissement in Paris.  Many were the creation of Hector Guimard, but he was hardly the only one.  In general,  boulevard Haussmann, boulevard Saint Germain, boulevard de Raspaille,  and avenue de Maine (14th) are good bets for a higher concentration of Art Nouveau.

Also, don't miss Jules Lavirotte’s  masterpiece, built in 1901, you can see it on 29 avenue Rapp Paris 01007.

Art Nouveau in Paris 29 avenue Rapp Paris 01007- Jules Lavirotte’s masterpiece from 1901
29 avenue Rapp Paris 01007, photo Sharon Leong.

Art Nouveau dining room at the museum of the School of Nancy
Art Nouveau dining room at the museum of the School of Nancy. Photo Jean-Pierre Dalbéra.

French Tip of the Week [1:05]

"Il ne faut pas en faire tout un fromage !" =  Don't make a big deal out of this!

"C'est bête comme chou. " = It's really easy.

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Discussed in this Episode

  • Art Deco
  • Art Nouveau
  • Art Nouveau in Nancy
  • Art Nouveau in Paris
  • Nancy


Arts & Architecture

4 Replies to “Art Nouveau in France, Episode 97”

  1. Hi Annie & Elyse
    I loved your episode on Art Nouveau! When I was in Paris last August, I caught the train to Nancy for the day. I visited Ecole de Nancy which was just fabulous, I’ve never seen such a fantastic display of art nouveau furniture, fittings and objects. The quality of the art nouveau features there was incredible. After the Ecole I went to Place Stanislas and walked around Nancy, amazed by the architecture, and then visited the Museum of Fine Arts which had a huge collection of glass objects such as the ones you spoke about. Even the Parc de la Pepiniere has a beautiful art nouveau rotunda. The only place I missed out on visiting was the Villa Majorelle which I think is only open on weekends. I would highly recommend a day trip to Nancy from Paris on the TGV as it only took about an hour and 40 minutes.
    Kind Regards
    Kim Henry

    1. Thank you Kim, very nice report with useful details! Would you like to chat with me on the podcast about your adventures in Nancy? If you do, send me an email!

  2. I loved art nouveau episode! Just listened for the second time and I am sure it wasn’t the last one. What a great content. Love your work! Best wishes.

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