Art Nouveau in Paris
Paris is synonymous with style, famous for its grand boulevards and Neoclassical buildings. Yet the city’s unique artistry is perhaps best typified by its Art Nouveau masterpieces, found everywhere from illustrious museums to metro stations.
Museum of Decorative Arts
The Musée des Arts Décoratifs, situated within the Louvre Palace of Paris since 1905, was created in 1882 in order to promote the applied arts and develop links between industry and culture, design and production. The museum preserves around 800,000 artworks from the French national collections, including gorgeous glass, ceramics, jewellery and fashion. The museum is also a mainstay of the city’s Art Nouveau heritage, with its wood-panelled drawing room designed by Georges Hoentschel and many other works commissioned for the 1900 Exhibition by the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs. The museum also presents three other period rooms by artists who left their mark on this era: Émile Gallé, Hector Guimard and Louis Majorelle.
107, rue de Rivoli, Paris 75001
01 44 55 57 50
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was the undisputed master of Parisian Art Nouveau, most associated with the bohemian streets of Montmartre. Here, in his small artist’s studio, the artist ceaselessly painted the ‘nocturnal paradises’ of his quaint Medieval district. The Musée de Montmartre showcases many of Toulouse-Lautrec’s early drawings, while exploring the neighbourhood life of the famous artist. Further in, the Musée d’Orsay features several of his better-known works, while the Moulin Rouge, for which the artist made several posters – remains a Paris icon.
Maxim’s is regarded as the most famous restaurant in the world – and with good reason. It was initially opened as a small bistro at the close of the 19th century, before being catapulted into fame following an Art Nouveau renovation some years later. Accompanied by lively jive, guests dine under patinated mirrors, Botticelli-like wallpapers and marbled wood mouldings. The decorated ceiling is luminescent, lighting up the gold cornicing and the gorgeous table-spreads beneath.
7, rue Royale, Paris 75008
01 42 65 27 94
Paris metro signs
They might seem an odd place to look, but many of Paris’s metro stations are home to masterful Art Nouveau flourishes, each the brainchild of Hector Guimard. The renowned French architect won a competition at the turn of the 20th century to make the newly designed underground “as elegant as possible” for the timid public. Guimard succeeded par excellence. He moulded cast iron in the guise of towering flora from tropical worlds. For each station, he designed a central archway, carved as stems with notches and twisting branchlets. He then complemented each with a balustrade of similarly enchanting ironwork, and occasionally blown-glass lampposts to each side. At his most regal entrances, he added a fanned glass awning, inspired by the welcoming bloom of a greenhouse canopy. Today, some 80 originals survive.
This series of luxury department stores was originally a small fashion store, which grew quickly are purchasing their current flagship address in 1905. Swept up by the artistry of the age, in 1912 the company commissioned Georges Chedanne to create a gorgeous building reminiscent of the adjacent opera house. The result is a gigantic glass-and-cast-iron dome that hangs effortlessly over the central atrium. Below lie story after story of theatre-like galleries, each bowing into the central hall with grandeur. To look up from the Galeries’ centre is a kaleidoscopic experience, as the colours of each glass pane and the opulence of every gallery combine.
40, Boulevard Haussmann, Paris 75009
01 42 82 34 56
16th and 7th arrondissements
The aforementioned Guimard left his Art Nouveau signature not only on Paris’s metro signs but also on the many facades of the beautiful 16th arrondissement. It was here that he first made his mark, shocking and inspiring audiences with exuberant cast-iron balustrades wrapping wisteria-like around balconies and gutters. Trace his unabashed style from his subtle origins at Le Castel Beranger to his sizeable housing designs along rue Jean de la Fontaine.
Jules Lavirotte was another of Paris’s great Art Nouveau architects. His most famous building is the Lavirotte building at 29 avenue Rapp, in the 7th arrondissement. The Lavirotte building tells the story of Adam and Eve through abstract and figurative symbols and motifs. It was quite the talking point when it was constructed back in 1901, and still stops people in their tracks today.
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