Hector Guimard - Design and Design Art New York Thursday, May 24, 2007 | Phillips

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  • Literature

    Maurice Rheims, The Flowering of Art Nouveau, New York, no date, pl. 114 for opening arch and sign of the present version; Peter Selz and Mildred Constantine, eds., Art Nouveau: Art and Design at the Turn of the Century, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1960, p. 135 for opening arch and sign; Ralph Culpepper, Bibliographie d’Hector Guimard, Paris, 1971, p. 55; David Dunster, ed., Hector Guimard, New York, 1978, pp. 88 and 91; F. Lanier Graham, Hector Guimard, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1970, p. 14 for the present version and a drawing of the base of the archway; Bernard Champigneulle, Art Nouveau, Paris, 1972, p. 217 for detail of the medallions; Felipe Ferré, Hector Guimard, New York, 1988, p. 85 for period photos, p. 92 for a detail drawing, and p. 99; Georges Vigne, Hector Guimard et l’Art Nouveau, Paris, 1990, p. 63 for detail of medallions; Ezio Godoli, Hector Guimard, Rome, 1992, pp. 76 and 78; Paul Greenhalgh, ed., Art Nouveau 1890-1914, exh. cat., Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2000, p. 267; Georges Vigne, Hector Guimard: Architect & Designer, New York, 2003, pp. 159, 164 167, 176-178 and 181; Frédéric Descouterelle, André Mignard and Michel Rodgriguez, eds., Le Metropolitain d’Hector Guimard, Paris, 2003, pp. 33, 80-81, 83, 85, 90, 102, 105, 109-110, 112, 122, 124-125, pp. 30-31 for drawings, pp. 32-35 for details, and pp. 144-147 for renderings of the parts of the present version; Judith Miller, Art Nouveau, London, 2004, pp. 10-11 for an example of the opening arch and sign similar to the present version

  • Catalogue Essay

    Hector Guimard is widely recognized as the most important architect in the Art Nouveau style. His ability to blend new shapes and lines while using modern production techniques and materials set him apart from his contemporaries. These groundbreaking ideas and techniques blazed the path for new styles of architecture to be taken seriously by critics and the public. Until the late 19th century, the only architecture considered respectable was that which referenced Greece or Rome. Public sentiment was generally that if the past was so rich, why search for anything else?

    Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc was one of the first detractors who approved of and worked to further a new architecture. His drawings of metalwork inspired by natural forms were particularly influential on Guimard. This rationalist approach to architecture and design was the foundation of Art Nouveau. Guimard’s devotion to this new approach to architecture was cemented by his travels to Brussels where he saw Victor Horta’s Hôtel Tassel. Viollet-le-Duc’s direct influence can be seen in many of Guimard’s buildings as well, especially in the V-shaped struts that support the École du Sacré-Coeur of 1895.

    Although Guimard had been working since 1891, Castel Béranger, built in 1898, made him famous. This structure exhibited an extremely modern façade and is now considered a masterwork of French Art Nouveau. At first regarded as eccentric and even horrifying by some, this work is now reflective of Guimard’s vision of architecture as a total work of art as he also designed the furniture, stained glass, decorative metalwork, hardware and appliances.


    The Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900 was a turning point for Art Nouveau as well as for Hector Guimard. The new style was a strong presence throughout the Expo and these new lines and shapes were regarded as a revelation to visitors and widely argued about in the press. Many of Guimard’s Metropolitan station entrances opened in unison with the Expo and visitors could arrive to it via the new mode of transport.

    The Metro entrance commission was a pivotal point in Guimard’s career. He was commissioned by the Conseil Municipal of Paris, André Benard, a supporter of Art Nouveau and Guimard. A design competition was held for the commission of the entrances and Guimard won the competition even though he did not enter. The main idea behind the design of the entrances was to achieve a union of design, art and technology and his designs fit this bill perfectly.

    The brief called for three entrance designs; open steps, covered steps and railing and complete pavilions. Guimard’s entrance designs were far superior to the other competition entrants, particularly in the use of a horizontal, lighted name-plate that could be seen from afar as well as the thin iron walls and glass components which managed to at once blend into and energize the surrounding environment.

    For all Metro entrance styles, Guimard selected industrial materials like cast iron and glass, in order to facilitate manufacture. The pieces of the structure were modular and standardized as well as being interchangeable and sturdy. Even though the materials were tough and industrial, they lent themselves well to Guimard’s fantastical and poetic designs.

    The Metro entrance’s place in the history of design and the Art Nouveau movement is clear. They are a triumph of form and material which work together to articulate and invigorate public space in a new and exciting way and may be the most well-known and important Art Nouveau works ever produced. Critics even began to refer to Art Nouveau overall as ‘le style Metro’ thus confirming Guimard’s influence on the entire movement.


Important complete Paris Metropolitan entrance

ca. 1900
Painted and patinated bronze, steel, resin, wood. Comprising two upstanding light posts with separate attached light housings and resin diffusers, one center span/brace containing Metropolitan wood sign, two center span supports, nine medallions, two end posts, nine top section ornaments, 18 vertical accent braces, three large C-channel rails, three smaller C-channel rails, six smaller posts.
Overall entrance: 14' high, 12'3" wide; one span of three medallions: approximately 11'6" long; each light post: 158 x 21 in. (401.3 x 53.3 cm); each light housing: 24 x 15 x 10 in. (61 x 38.1 x 25.4 cm); each light brace: 24 1/2 x 25 1/4 x 8 in. (62.2 x 64.1 x 20.3 cm); center span: 115 1/4 x 26 x 3 1/4 in. (292.7 x 66 x 8.3 cm); sign: 56 1/2 x 17 in. (143.5 x 43.2 cm); each end post: 48 x 15 in. (121.9 x 38.1 cm); each decorative top ornament: 38 3/4 x 10 in. (88.3 x 25.4 cm); each vertical accent brace: 30 3/4 x 2 5/8 in. (78.1 x 6.6 cm); each medallion: 29 x 24 in. (73.7 x 61 cm); each small post: 40 1/2 x 10 1/2 in. (102.9 x 26.7 cm); larger C-channel: 123 1/2 x 1 3/8 in. (313.7 x 3.6 cm); smaller C-channel: 122 5/8 x 1 in. (311.4 x 2.54 cm); each light diffuser: 16 x 11 x 9 in. (40.6 x 37.9 x 22.9 cm); each center span support: 124 1/4 x 6 1/2 in. (315 x 16.5 cm)

$450,000 - 550,000 

Design and Design Art

24 May 2007
2pm New York