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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.
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.
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.
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.