Art Nouveau in France

In France, the painting revolution preceded the Art Nouveau. The "impressionists" and the "independent club" clashed with academic and historical art down from the mid seventies (1875-90). At the contrary, in Austria or Germany, the name sezession meant a revolution in all Arts including paintings. The Nabis, headed by Maurice Denis,  is a painting movement very close to Art Nouveau. They used stylized shapes and especially women faces and clothes with a Preraphaelit manner, very close to placards or stain glass technics : the perspective is flatten into wide plain surfaces of color wrapped by a black or blue thick line.

In applied arts, the influence of nature as a unique source of inspiration began in the 1880ies with jewels, glass and ceramic work, .... The revolution comes from architecture and applied arts. The two main centers of Art Nouveau in France are Paris (the heart of France) and Nancy but you may find art nouveau architecture in many towns : for instance in resorts towns like Vichy, Mers les bains, Hermanville... or other big towns like Lille, Orléans, ... In fact, you may fing Art Nouveau in any town that was in expension during 1890-1910 because of industry, trading or tourism... and that was not heavily touched by the two world wars.


To discover Art Nouveau outstanding buildings in Paris, you can visit the top 10 Art Nouveau buildings in Paris.

or have a more complete visit with an interactive walk in Paris Art Nouveau streets The most well known Art Nouveau architect in Paris is Hector Guimard. He brought Art Nouveau back from Belgium where he visited Victor Horta in 1894. Guimard was building at that time the "Castel Beranger" which was to be one of his master pieces in a medieval style. He had been very upset by what he has seen of the Tassel Hotel and decided to modify all his plans for Castel Beranger, designing every detail (wall paper, door handles, floor tiles, front door). You can admire some of the object designs for the Castel Beranger in the Musé d'Orsay. And of course the Castel Béranger 14, avenue Mozart. Guimard also designed the metro entrences in 1900 of which 2 original covered stations remain.

Guimard is certainly the most well known Art Nouveau architect in Paris, but Art Nouveau would not had either his name nor his success without Samuel Bing. Samuel Bing was an "Galerie d'Art" (Art shop) keeper and he was interested in the new trends in Arts at the end of last century. The name of his gallery was "Art Nouveau". Obviously Art Nouveau objects like this mirror mixing wood and brass ornated with dynamic curves and floral patterns by Edgar Brandt circa 1910 were on sale in his marvelous and modern shop (partly designed by the Belgian artist Henry Van de Velde). 

The jeweler René Lalique made his reputation on designing jewels with mixed material, often half precious gems with shapes of animals (here a peacock : a fetish animal for Art Nouveau) or women. Later, after 1913, Lalique began to produce glass works in an Art Deco style.

Alphonse Mucha is also a symbol of Art Nouveau in Paris. The Czech has spent most of his time in Paris and his placards for the actress Sarah Bernard are probably the most well known of the world.

Other architects can be cited to have marked Art Nouveau in Paris: Henri Sauvage (image : theater Loïe Füller for the 1900 world fair in Paris. By the way Loïe Füller was a famous American dancer on stage in Paris who received a fabulous success. Many sculptures or drawings have represented her but the one of Raoul Larche is the most well known), Schollkopf, Jourdain (architect from the grand magasin "La Samaritaine")... and Lavirotte . the latter built in 1902 the most erotic façade of Paris. He has a real skill at integrating sculpture to his buildings. With this building he won the "Paris best facade of the year" challenge so did the Castel Beranger some years before. Salvador Dali did enjoyed it very much.


It is not possible to talk about Art Nouveau in Paris without mentionning Mucha (the famous Art Nouveau placard maker) and Sarah Bernard (famous actress and his best client).


You may follow the guide and have an interactive walk in Nancy Art Nouveau streets.

From 1870 to 1914, Nancy was the eastest big French town. Alsace and a part of
Lorraine region were part of Germany since the end of the Second Empire. Nancy has seen a lot of people and skill artist come to Nancy to avoid being German. The liliputian Nancy (40000 inhabitants) had to impose its style between Paris the european art capital and a conquering Germany.

The School of Nancy was created in 1901 by Emile Gallé. Its association gathers art manufacturers, artists and even teachers. The aim of the movement was to make a group to have more influence and help one each other.

Gallé has always been far in advance on his time being both a manufacturer and an artist (vases : see on the right a vase etched with an umbel pattern and made of degrading color glass, furniture : see on the top left a table marketry with realistic tree leaves).

He won a grand prix at the 1889 world fair in Paris. But this exhibition, perceived by the public as a giant shop, was a disaster. In 1902, at the first modern decorative arts exhibition in Turin, the group of the "Ecole de Nancy" was not represented because of the financial cost for their personal funds. (no help from the state). This exhibition dedicated to new trends of Art, was unfortunately for Nancean artists a success for German artists. In 1904, Gallé died and the painter Victor Prouvé replaced him at the head of the Ecole de Nancy. The atmosphere changed as the group was no more run by a manufacturer. The

This vase has a thistle pattern. This pattern is typical in Nancy : it is the regional emblem.
production is more and more oriented to single expensive works and only the artists that have a shop in Paris will soon be able to succeed as Nancy's art market has become too small because of the raise of prices. Art Nouveau in Nancy became more and more geometrical under the market pressure and it is already dying in 1914. In 1918, the war damage of the region and the recover of Lorraine Alsace from Germany put a final point to Art Nouveau. Only Daum's company has survived till today, Gallé's one was closed in 1931.

One characteristic of the Ecole de Nancy is the large range of objects touched by Art Nouveau: tapestry work, wall paper, metal work, cast iron, stained glasses, architecture, ceramic work, furniture, jewelry... but the most well known is still glass work. Architecture came in a second time in Nancy with the first and the main Art Nouveau building imported from Paris for the artist Louis Majorelle (on the right)

External related URLs to Art Nouveau and France:

More specific links about Nancy, Strasbourg, Paris can be found in the dedicated sections.

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