30 July 2010

Hector Guimard: The Curve Bends Toward Abstraction

"Line in Guimard, just as in the Japanese guides, is a living incarnation of natural laws. Thus, in an old Japanese manual, there is a catalogue of eighteen different types of line, with such descriptions as ‘floating silk threads’ ropes’ water lines’ or ‘bent metal wire.’ This latter was particularly subtly used by Guimard, who had an inborn sense of the inner tension of line.” - Dore Ashton in Le Monde, 22 May 1970:

French architect Hector Guimard (1867-1942) realized the decorative possibilities of glazed lava, a substance made from mixing pulverized lava with clay when he built a villa for Louis Coillot, (1898-1900) a ceramics manufacturer in Lille who monopolised the distribution of the material. Guimard sided the entire facade of Maison Coilliot in lava stone.
Guimard also used glazed lava to great effect in the nameplate for Castel Henriette (built 1899 - demolished 1969), as well as for his famous signs for the Paris Metro. He designed the graphics for his signs, and here we can see him introduce geometric elements that tend toward asbtraction. The outline of the letters and their rhythm give added emphasis and harmonize the pinks and yellows he used.
In a twist of fate, a largely forgotten Guimard died in New York City in 1942, after fleeing Paris to ensure the safety of his Jewish wife.
Images: Musee d'Orsay, Paris, photographer: Rene-Gabriel Ojeda.

7 comments:

Rinkly Rimes said...

I don't very often comment, I'm afraid, because I know very little about your subject. However, I 'read' you almost every day and I look upon your blog as my art education! I suppose I'm a bit late with it at approaching eighty, but, believe me, I am a very appreciative audience!

Hels said...

Ohhh yes!!!

Usually a style will fascinate its adherents, bore their children and be thrown into the rubbish bin by their grandchildren. But there is something so seductive about art nouveau that Hector Guimard's lines and colours still resonate.

Rouchswalwe said...

18 different kinds of line! Fascinating.

Jane said...

RR, please feel free to comment or question what I write. This is one of the opportunities that the internet offers us. You may not have given much systematic thought to the arts, but you've been looking around every day and that gives you a visual vocabulary to use when you look at something new. Two books that you might enjoy are "Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History & Awareness In Everyday Places" by John R. Stilgoe and "How To Use Your Eyes" by James Elkins. Stilgoe is a historian and Elkins is art critic.

Jane said...

Hels, fortunately much of Guimard's works remains intact. Sadly, Castel Henriette is not among them. There is more about Maison Coilliot at 1900.art.nouveau.free.fr/

Jane said...

Rouchswalwe, maybe I should do something more with this?

Rouchswalwe said...

Ah, Jane! You read my mind. Yes, please!