Architecture Planning and Preservation Art Nouveau
by
Meredith L. Clausen
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190922467-0008

Introduction

Though circumscribed in time, art nouveau was a sprawling, diverse movement affecting all the arts, both ideologically and formally. The essay here focuses on its theoretical foundations as they were originally articulated and realized in architecture in France and Belgium at the end of the 19th century. Art nouveau architecture was first and foremost a revolutionary design approach demanding an unequivocal rejection of historicism in the quest for a new architecture suitable to the modern age. At a time when eclecticism was the norm throughout Europe, proponents of art nouveau defied the academic system, demanding the abandonment of historical prototypes as a model for contemporary design, a system that had prevailed since the Renaissance; it thus broke through the barrier, paving the way for modernism. As with any artistic trend, there were considerable differences among practitioners, reflecting national and regional identities as well as individual skills and tastes, but generally their work can be characterized by forms inspired not by those of history or tradition, but by the natural world. The conviction, as architect and theorist Frantz Jourdain stated it in 1889 on the occasion of the Paris Exposition Universelle, was “à des besoins nouveaux, les formes nouvelles”—new forms for new needs. Instead of derived forms, especially those in the classical language based on a monarchial or aristocratic past, one should use forms inspired by the beauty of nature that everyone, regardless of class or education, can understand. Consistent with this democratic ideal and the embrace of un art pour tous was the acceptance of the realities of a modern industrial society: industrial materials and processes, mass production, and standardization. While revolutionary in its spirit, art nouveau had roots in a wide range of 19th century artistic trends: Viollet-le-Duc’s structural rationalism; the innovative architectural use of iron and glass; new modern building types such as exhibition halls and department stores; William Morris and the arts & crafts movement with its aim of an aesthetically harmonious total work of art; Japanese art with its asymmetry, long sinuous lines, flat planes of color, and non-Western sense of space; the poster with its energetic, writhing lines and flat fields of bold clashing color; its targeted audience of people of all classes especially the working class; and an aim to bring art to the people—not just in the private home but in the public street. Catalyzing the movement in architecture in the early 1890s, surely, was the 1889 Paris World’s Fair, marking the triumph of the engineer with the unprecedented use of glass, iron, and steel, and jolting traditionally trained architects, such as Victor Horta in Brussels, out of their stymied state into exploring a wholly new sense of space, light, and color. From Belgium and France, art nouveau spread quickly throughout Europe and other parts of the world, changing its aims and priorities as it did so to adjust to different economic and political situations, and acquiring different names. Infused initially with the spirit and energy of the Belle Époque and marked by its joie de vivre, optimism, and progressive outlook, the movement waned as the decade progressed, done in as much as anything by conservative forces both political and artistic that gained momentum as national tensions mounted. With war clouds gathering, sensibilities retreated to traditional historical certainties and to the security and safety of the past in the face of increasingly unsettled times.

General Overviews

Most publications on art nouveau consider it a broad artistic movement including painting, sculpture, and the decorative arts, as well as architecture. Studies specifically focused on art nouveau architecture are rare, but provide an exceptionally good picture of the radical changes in architectural history over the course of the century. Viewed historiographically, they project a clear view of the shifting aesthetic values in architectural discourse as well as public taste. Largely rejected within a decade or so of its appearance, the movement was framed in architectural history by the limited perspectives of influential modernist historians such as Pevsner and Giedion, who basically cast it aside (denigrated by Pevsner as merely a decorative style; dismissed by Giedion as only transitional, an “intermezzo” between 19th century historicism and 20th century modernism). Their teleological perspectives, based on selected buildings and projects they saw as anticipating or contributing to the modern movement, meant other simultaneously existing artistic trends, such as the art nouveau, were all but ignored. Faced with all but universal disregard, its legacy began disappearing as early as the mid-1920s. In the early 1950s, exhibitions and publications on art nouveau began documenting it. These initially were formalistic in nature, identifying the style largely in terms of its sinuous ‘whiplash line,’ and focusing on its sources and origins in Belgium and France. In time methodological approaches changed, expanding to trace the spread of the movement geographically throughout Europe and North America and to include the analysis of radically differing cultural contexts. In the early 1960s, Reyner Banham, a student of Pevsner’s, challenged his former mentor on his narrow, elitist view, opening doors for a more inclusive approach. As modernist moral strictures eased, the movement increasingly was assessed on its own terms rather than measured against the sober, efficient, functional Bauhausian design approach. Another surge of interest appeared in the 1970s, aroused in part by the growing strength of the preservation movement but perhaps more importantly by the emergence of postmodernism, with its acceptance, even celebration, of ornamentation. Freed from the ideological baggage of modernism, in which aesthetic tastes as well as historical perspectives had been constricted by modernist sensibilities, the movement was seen through fresh eyes. Still more recently, in a new era of globalization and as disciplinary as well as geographical boundaries dissolve in academia, there has been yet another wave of publications on art nouveau as an international phenomenon, seen less as a purely artistic movement and more as a broad cultural phenomenon, and bearing the influence of new interdisciplinary approaches such as postcolonialism, women studies, psychoanalysis, and experiential design. The selection of citations below is aimed at providing a sense of the movement in architecture as it developed over time.

Primary Sources

These are three of the many publications, mainly articles or essays in then newly founded contemporaneous art journals, acknowledging and defining the art nouveau movement as it emerged in Brussels and Paris. Lahor 1901, written in French, is one of the earliest to formulate specifically the movement’s social goals. Hamlin 1902, written for an English-speaking audience, similarly addresses its origins and development, but from a distinctly different, more purely artistic perspective. Bing 1902, as owner of the small Art Nouveau Gallery in Paris that gave the movement its name, played a more entrepreneurial role in it; his articles were deliberately aimed at spreading its commercial popularity, especially in Germany, England, and the United States.

  • Bing, Samuel. “L’Art Nouveau.” The Architectural Record 12 (August 1902): 279–285.

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    On the definition and aims of the movement from the individual whose small art gallery in Paris gave it its name and was instrumental in both its artistic direction, fostering the appreciation of Japanese decorative arts, and in the commercial development of the new art. Reprinted in The Craftsmen (October 1903): 1–15.

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  • Hamlin, A. D. F. “The Art Nouveau: Its Origins and Development.” The Craftsman 3.3 (December 1902): 129–143.

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    Basic essay defining the movement; often referred to by other sources. Spread publicity about it, especially in Great Britain and the United States to the then fledgling movement there.

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  • Lahor, Jean (Henri Cazalis). L’art nouveau: Son histoire, l’art nouveau étranger à l’Exposition, l’art nouveau au point de vue social. Paris: Lemerre, 1901.

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    Demonstrated in the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle, by this time the fledgling Art Nouveau movement, which began primarily in the decorative arts with roots in England, was quickly expanding to encompass architecture and the other visual arts and had spread throughout Europe and beyond. The author discusses its origins and development, characterizing it as an “affaire des hommes de gout”—for men of taste. He stresses its social aims, an art for the people, as well as aesthetes.

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Secondary Sources

After having being attacked and criticized almost from the beginning; falling out of favor with upper classes and the architectural community on social or political, moral, and aesthetic grounds; and then having been all but completely dismissed by Nikolaus Pevsner in his Pioneers of the Modern Movement (1936), interest in art nouveau picked up in the 1950s largely among collectors, gallery owners, and museum curators. Lenning 1951, leaning heavily on van de Velde, was one of the first works retrospectively to define the movement, noting its social conscience as well as determination to break with styles of the past in the interest of being fully modern. Madsen 1956 is considered by many an authoritative source, and since its appearance, it has served to provide the framework for subsequent studies. Jacobus 1958, deriving from a focus on Viollet le Duc in previous work, goes well beyond Madsen in underscoring the importance of the movement, especially in architecture. Selz and Constantine 1959 did much to underscore art nouveau’s legitimacy and spread its popularity, especially in the United States, where Selz, as curator at MoMA, staged an exhibition of art nouveau that year. Schmutzler 1962 is important as one of the first major monographs on the movement, though the author follows Pevsner’s path in emphasizing the British and Germans at the expense of the French. Rheims 1966, assuming a more thematic than narrative framework, breaks the subject down by art form, fragmenting the movement, which thus loses much of its internal coherency; as architecture became increasingly minimized, the original social aims and moral motivations were progressively lost. Since the 1970s and the undermining of modernism with the rise of postmodernism, interest in art nouveau and its embrace of ornamentation has undergone a revival. Reflecting this has been a renewed interest in architecture, which one sees in Delevoy and Brunhammer 1971, Russell 1979, and Thiébaut 2000. While Greenhalgh 2000 goes back to a composite picture, addressing art nouveau as a whole of which architecture is but a part, it nonetheless provides an excellent comprehensive view of the movement, including in the last chapter a sense of the historiography of the movement over the course of the century.

  • Brunhammer, Yvonne. Art Nouveau Belgium/France. Houston, TX: Institute for the Arts, Rice University and Art Institute of Chicago, 1976.

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    An exhibition catalog addressing art nouveau as whole and its diffusion by means of museums, exhibitions, and art reviews; includes painting, graphic arts, posters, sculpture and the decorative arts as well as architecture. Gives richer, fuller sense of the movement than earlier accounts, emphasizing the connections among all the arts as a result of the deliberate blurring of the distinction between the fine and applied (or decorative) arts.

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  • Delevoy, Robert L., and Yvonne Brunhammer. Pionniers du XXe Siècle: Guimard, Horta, van de Velde. Paris: Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 1971.

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    An exhibition catalogue, modest by today’s standards but important as one of first to address art nouveau architecture specifically. Essays by Delevoy on Horta and van de Velde provide a good, sympathetic, albeit preliminary view (perhaps inevitably shaped by Le Corbusier’s views in the ‘30s) of their work; the essay on Guimard is by Brunhammer, curator at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Includes useful plans and details as well as black-and-white images of the buildings.

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  • Greenhalgh, Paul, ed. Art Nouveau: 1890–1914. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2000.

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    An exhibition catalogue, one of the best published in the early 21st century. While architecture is only part of the text, it is closely connected with other visual arts, especially decorative arts, expanding our understanding through those links. Broadly inclusive geographically (the book includes Scandinavia and Eastern European as well as Chicago) as well as in terms of art forms, it is one of the more up to date in terms of scholarship, reflecting broader cultural concerns and acknowledging the crucial role of politics, thus moving well beyond the Pevsnerian ‘whiplash line.’

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  • Jacobus, John M. “Review of Stephen Madsen, Sources of Art Nouveau.” Art Bulletin 40.4 (December 1958): 364–373.

    DOI: 10.1080/00043079.1958.11408569Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An exceptionally good account of art nouveau, particularly from the perspective of architectural history. As Jacobus wrote his doctoral dissertation on Viollet-du-Duc, he forefronts not only the architectural aspect of the movement but the centrality of structural rationalism. Taking issue with Madsen as well as Pevsner on a number of issues, Jacobus accentuates the importance of the movement and the modern movement’s debt to it. He also discusses its theoretical bases (ignored by scholars focused on style), the problem of stylistic categorization, and the persistent marginalization of architecture in historiographies of the movement. Available online by purchase or subscription.

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  • Lenning, Henry F. The Art Nouveau. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1951.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-017-5970-0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An early retrospective view of art nouveau, short and with a limited number of black-and-white images, but giving a good sense of the movement as a whole as viewed in the 1950s. Relying largely on the work of van de Velde (essays of the 1930s as well as built work), it defines the style, articulates its aims, and presents results through the Pevsner/Giedion modernist lens.

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  • Madsen, Stephan Tschudi. Sources of Art Nouveau. 1st ed. Translated by Ragnar Christophersen. New York: Wittenborn, 1956.

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    A major albeit early publication on the sources of art nouveau. Subsequent scholarship has expanded the scope and provided different interpretations, as Madsen himself, a careful, thorough scholar, recognizes in the second edition. Goes well beyond sources to discuss the origin and development of the movement, recognizes the limitations of seeing the movement as a prelude to the modernist movement, and attempts to evaluate it on its own terms. Reprinted in 1975 with a new preface (New York: Da Capo).

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  • Rheims, Maurice. The Flowering of Art Nouveau. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1966.

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    Representing a markedly outdated modernist view of art nouveau, Rheims seems not to like it much. Interesting from point of view of historiography, as published on the cusp of the renewed interest in art nouveau that emerged in the 1970s with far more thoughtful study. Organizes the material in terms of subjects (architecture, commercial architecture, decoration in stone and wrought iron, applied arts, furniture, “Fashion and Frivolity,” etc.). Good illustrations, mostly black and white, many of building no longer extant.

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  • Russell, Frank, ed. Art Nouveau Architecture. New York: Rizzoli, 1979.

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    Major publication, one of the few focused on architecture. Text organized by country with different authors for each, including Holland, Czechoslovakia, and the United States (including essays on Sullivan, Wright, and Greene & Greene). Stretches the definition of art nouveau well beyond Pevsner’s stylistic terms to the point where it all but loses meaning; Pevsnerian blinders nonetheless prevail, and although the authors differ, the overall approach is basically formalistic. Despite drawbacks, raises a number of provocative issues demanding further research. Includes useful 1900 photographs, mostly black and white.

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  • Schmutzler, Robert. Art Nouveau. Translated by Edouard Roditi. London: Thames & Hudson, 1962.

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    Originally published in German as Art Nouveau: Jugendstil (Stuttgart: Gerd Hatje, 1962) this is perhaps one of the first of the large-scale, lavishly illustrated exhibition catalogues geared primarily to the museum-going public, secondarily to scholars. Nonetheless important, as it presents art nouveau as a broad artistic movement informed largely by the British rather than the French, and reflecting the pro-German biases of Pevsner and Giedion. Largely formalistic in methodological approach.

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  • Selz, Peter, and Mildred Constantine, eds. Art Nouveau: Art and Design at the Turn of the Century. New York: Doubleday, 1959.

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    An exhibition catalogue drawn up by the Museum of Modern Art, this marks a pivotal moment when the movement was recognized as worthy of attention by museums, curators, collectors, and in turn, the general public. It is divided into sections on graphic design, painting and sculpture, and decorative arts, with an essay on architecture by Henry-Russell Hitchcock. Good illustrations, some in color, though greatly limited according to early 21st century standards. Revised in 1975.

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  • Thiébaut, Philippe, ed. Paris 1900. Paris: RMN, 2000.

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    Catalogue for the exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay, marking 1900 Exposition centennial. Includes essays on architecture, sculpture, and photography, and the intersection of the visual arts with other fields such as science and music and literature. Includes developments in Central Europe as well as Western Europe. Text in French.

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Bibliographies

Useful resources for finding myriad sources, minor as well as major, on art nouveau. Grady 1955, a relatively short article, is good especially on identifying Primary Sources on architecture; Kempton 1977, coming two decades later, is more comprehensive and far less focused on architecture—that plus its unwieldy organization makes it more difficult to use.

  • Grady, James. “A Bibliography of the Art Nouveau.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 14.2 (1955): 18–27.

    DOI: 10.2307/987784Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Old and in many respects outdated, but still useful as includes references to journals now obsolete. Available online by purchase or subscription.

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  • Kempton, Richard. Art Nouveau: An Annotated Bibliography. Los Angeles: Hennessey & Ingalls, 1977.

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    An exhaustive, indiscriminate compilation of published articles and books on art nouveau, focused mainly on the movement in general, and in Austria, Belgium, and France in particular. Defines art nouveau broadly, as it appeared in these different countries, in different art forms (posters, paintings, glasswork, decorative arts, etc.), and in individual artists. Includes over four thousand entries, with references to minor journal articles as well as major books.

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Expositions

Like publications in the international art press, exhibitions (especially but not solely international) played a key role in not only disseminating publicity about art nouveau, but stimulating national competition and exacerbating the drive for national identity. The article Champier 1896 is an early piece on exhibitions specifically featuring art nouveau; that it was staged in an art gallery indicates its commercial interests early on. Maus 1897 demonstrates art nouveau’s growing international presence. Meier-Graefe 1898 is the work of a major publicist of art nouveau, spreading its popularity and stimulating its commercial appeal; the author published numerous articles (often under different pseudonyms in both France and Germany) of which this is one of the earlier.

1889 Paris World’s Fair

While the focus of scrutiny, especially from engineers and the engineering community, the impact of the 1889 Paris World’s Fair more broadly and especially its role in the emergence of art nouveau has not been explored in depth. It needs more thoughtful study, particularly from architectural historians. Although typically hard to find and possibly appearing of antiquarian interest only, these Primary Sources on the exposition, all of which are in French, can yield mounds of information of potential use to researchers. The article Hénard 1889 is of interest especially in light of the author’s later work on the urban planning of Paris. Vogüé 1889 can be a laborious read, but the author’s personal observations are of interest in bringing to light aspects both major and minor of the Fair otherwise ignored in more official accounts. The article Jourdain 1889 is especially important in its celebration of the engineer, a theme Le Corbusier was to revive in his seminal manifesto, Toward an Architecture, in the 1920s.

  • Alphand, J. C. A., Georges Berger, and Alfred Picard. Exposition Universelle Internationale de 1889: Palais, jardins, constructions diverses, installations gènèrales. Paris: J. Rothschild, 1892–1895.

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    A full, detailed description of the Exposition, with sections on metal construction, the Expo site, fountains, lighting (including electrical), medical services, the Tour Eiffel, demolitions, fêtes, receptions (e.g. that of the Shah of Persia, banquets, etc.). Includes site plan as well as graphs on expenses.

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  • Hénard, Eugène. “Exposition Universelle de 1889: Le Palais des Machines.” L’Architecture 2 (1889): 173–176, 232–236, 317–322, 387–394.

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    This early article by Hénard is of interest not only for his observations of the Exposition and the Galerie des Machines, but his comments on the Fair and the role of the decorative arts.

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  • Jourdain, Frantz. “La décoration et le rationalisme architecturaux à l’Exposition Universelle.” Revue des arts décoratifs 10 (Décember 1889): 33–38.

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    A major albeit often overlooked polemical essay by one of the major theorists and spokesmen for art nouveau architecture; in fiery rhetoric anticipating that of Le Corbusier (who was to seek work with Jourdain when he first came to Paris in 1908) in the 1920s, Jourdain paid tribute to the Galerie des Machines and to the engineer in whose work he saw the path to the future for architects.

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  • Stamper, John W., and Robert Mark. “The Structure of the Galerie des Machines, Paris, 1889.” History and Technology 10.3 (1993): 127–138.

    DOI: 10.1080/07341519308581841Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Recent article on the structure of the Galerie des Machines jointly authored by John Stamper, professor in the architecture department at Notre Dame, and Robert Marks, professor of civil and environmental engineering, Princeton, well known for his studies of the structural mechanics of Gothic buildings. Available online by purchase or subscription.

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  • Vogüé, E. M. de. Remarques sur L’Exposition du centenaire. Paris: Librairie Plon, 1889.

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    Notes and impressions of a well-known travel writer and member of the Académie Française on the 1889 Exposition. Reprinted in 2016 (Paris: Hachette Livre).

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  • Watson, William. Paris Universal Exhibition, 1889: Civil Engineering, Public Works, and Architecture. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1892.

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    Description of the fair from an outsider with the perspective of an American engineer.

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1900 Paris Exposition Universelle

Art nouveau played a major role in the 1900 exhibition, which did much to spread its popularity and boost its commercial appeal. One sees it here within the context not just of Paris but Paris of the Belle Époque.

  • Champier, Victor, ed. Les Industries d’art à l’Exposition Universelle de 1900. Paris: Bureau de la Revue des arts décoratifs, 1902.

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    Good description of the role of the decorative arts at the fair by a well-known protagonist of the movement. Well illustrated.

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  • Jourdain, Frantz. “L’Architecture à l’Exposition Universelle de 1900, promenade à bâtons rompus.” Revue des Arts Décoratifs 20 (1900a): 65–74.

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    Critic as well as architect himself, Jourdain played a major role in the art nouveau movement especially at the 1900 Paris fair as a spokesman not only for architecture but for the decorative arts.

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  • Jourdain, Frantz. “Les conquêtes de la science—L’Architecture.” Architecture 13.42 (1900b): 378–379.

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    Focuses specifically on the contributions of science to progressive architecture.

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  • Lahor, Jean (Henri Cazalis). L’art nouveau: Son histoire, l’art nouveau étranger à l’Exposition, l’art nouveau au point de vue social. Paris: Lemerre, 1901.

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    A premodernist assessment of the art nouveau movement written in midst of the movement itself as it progressed; articulates its social aims as well as its widespread success at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair, underscoring aspects largely overlooked by historians since the mondernist movement in the ‘20s. In French, no illustrations; availability limited. Good rebuttal to those who see art nouveau in France as strictly art for art’s sake geared solely to the luxury market.

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  • Mandell, Richard D. Paris 1900: The Great World’s Fair. Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1967

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    On the cultural ambiance at the turn of the century, not just in Paris but in France and beyond; as a historian, his aim is to provide a rich picture of what life was like at the time. Addressed to both lay and professional audience; ample illustrations including site plan. Includes descriptions of the decorative arts and architecture; older publication, but useful in pointing out and clarifying the role of art nouveau at the fair.

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  • Musée du Petit Palais. Paris 1900: La ville spectacle: Petit Palais. Issy-les-Moulineaux, France: Beaux-arts, 2014.

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    Broad cultural approach providing the context of architecture and the visual arts. Includes essays on Paris as the site of spectacles, literary Paris, Paris as capital of the arts, Paris and art nouveau, as well as the 1900 Expo. Excellent illustrations, many in color, but mostly of posters, paintings, and objets d’art, not architecture.

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  • Paris Exposition Universelle internationale de 1900. Catalogue official illustré. 20 vols. Paris: Lemercier, 1900.

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    Official report of the fair; good complete description free of biases or a priori artistic agendas. Available online.

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Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte Decorativa Moderna, Turin, 1902

An important but understudied exhibition which played a salient role in heightening the competition among nations increasingly determined to assert a national identity. The exhibition contributed to turning the tide against the movement as a whole, especially as it had emerged in France and Belgium. Koch 1903 and Soulier 1902 are useful for giving a view of the exposition unfiltered by later historians; Etlin 1989 provides a well-known, highly respected architectural historian’s take on it close to a century later.

  • Etlin, Richard A. “Turin 1902: The Search for a Modern Italian Architecture.” In Special Issue: Stile Floreale Theme. Edited by Pamela Johnson. Journal of the Decorative and Propaganda Arts 13 (Summer 1989): 94–109.

    DOI: 10.2307/1504049Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    On the first major international exhibition devoted primarily to modern decorative arts; later revised and expanded to form a chapter in Etlin’s Modernism in Italian Architecture 1890–1940. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991). Available online by purchase or subscription.

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  • Koch, Alexander, ed. L’Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs Modernes à Turin 1902. Darmstadt: A. Koch Librairie des Arts Décoratifs, 1903.

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    A substantial publication, with essays by Georg Fuchs and F.H. Newbery, on the contributions of various countries as well as the general architecture of the exposition. Well illustrated; architecture subsumed, however, within larger discussion of the visual arts as a whole.

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  • Soulier, Gustave. “L’Exposition de Turin: 1. Les édfices.” L’Art décoratif 8 (1902): 186–190.

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    Brief article; focuses on the architecture of the exposition; limited number of illustrations.

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Dissemination: Articles

The articles cited in this section are aimed at indicating efforts made by originators of the movement to publicize and spread the popularity of the decorative arts beyond France and Germany. Bing 1902 was instrumental from the start in propagating the movement beyond Paris; Meier-Graefe 1898 played a similar role, as its author published articles in both the French and German press. Genuys 1897 is useful in indicating the sense of national identity involved, while Croly 1902 tells of efforts made early on to spread the world beyond Europe to the United States.

Analyses: Articles

The articles cited in this section are but two of many articles on art nouveau which have special bearing on architecture. Lancaster 1952 is an early postwar article addressing the influence of the Japanese, especially in the decorative arts; Jacobus 1958, again early, is similarly useful in addressing the movement as a unified whole, rather than fragmented into sections each devoted to a discrete art form.

  • Jacobus, John M. “Review of Stephen Madsen, Sources of Art Nouveau.” Art Bulletin 40.4 (December 1958): 364–373.

    DOI: 10.1080/00043079.1958.11408569Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Excellent account of art nouveau, as useful today as it was in the late ‘50s. Goes well beyond a simple review, tackling problem of defining and coming to grips with what even then he saw as a vitally important movement receiving short shrift in architectural history. Underscores its reform aims, the movement’s theoretical bases (typically ignored by scholars focused on style), problem of stylistic categorization, and persistent marginalization of architecture in historiographies of the movement.

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  • Lancaster, Clay. “Oriental Contributions to Art Nouveau.” Art Bulletin 34.4 (December 1952): 297–310.

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    A good place to begin any exploration of the Japanese influence in Art Nouveau. Is one of several articles Lancaster on exchange of Asian influences; very Pevsnerian in approach. Architecture included in the discussion but restricted to decoration. Doesn’t deal with architectural space. Available online by purchase or subscription.

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Cities

International in scope and unified by spirit and basic premises, art nouveau was nonetheless always rooted to particular places, which accounts as much as anything for the diversity in its formal language. Stemming out of a common conviction of a break with the norm, and shedding historicism in favor of something new, modern, and in sync with contemporary times, it branched out all but simultaneously in numerous regional offshoots, each taking on very different guises based on often radically different aims (political, economic, and social) as well as values and traditions. The focus here is on theoretical foundations. Citations are for only those countries or cities in Belgium or France which were initially involved.

Brussels

As one of two metropolises where art nouveau, Brussels is especially important in the first decade of its appearance. Delevoy, et al. 1971 addresses specifically architectural concerns, giving a good picture of its relationship to the other arts—especially interior design, furnishings, and the decorative arts—but more importantly underscoring the movement’s social concerns. Borsi 1977 is aimed less at a scholarly audience and emphasizes broadening the discussion to engage a less academic and more popular albeit sophisticated readership.

  • Borsi, Franco. Bruxelles 1900. New York: Rizzoli, 1977.

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    Large format exhibition catalogue (originally published in 1974 [Brussels: Vokaer]) with a focus on architecture; geared to larger, more popular audience than earlier publications on the same subject. Introductory remarks in English; rest of text is in French. Includes Paul Hankar and Serrurier-Bovy, among other lesser-known architects and designers, with brief biographical sketches of each. Text attempts to situate Belgian architecture into the historiography of the movement as a whole. Cites Walter Benjamin, Illuminationen. Amply illustrated, most in black and white.

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  • Delevoy, Robert L., Giovanni Wieser, and Maurice Culot. Bruxelles 1900: Capital de l’Art Nouveau. Brussels: Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture et des Arts Visuels, 1971.

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    One of the first exhibitions to focus specifically (if not solely) on architecture. Text of modest catalogue in French, English, and Flemish. Short but telling text, revealing less about architecture in Brussels c. 1900 and more about changes in the theoretical climate of architectural discourse in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s (Foucault, semiotics, Walter Benjamin) as architects began breaking out of the modernist stranglehold and moving into the postmodernist era. Black-and-white illustrations with good details, plans, descriptions.

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Paris

Three of the publications included under this section (Jullian 1974, Borsi 1977, Collet and Lobstein 2014), all exhibition catalogues of various degrees of sophistication, focus specifically on Paris in the throes of the Belle Époque as the unequivocal principal site of art nouveau by the turn of the century; the fourth, Brunhammer, et al. 1976, addresses both Brussels and Paris, and is perhaps the most scholarly in its approach.

  • Borsi, Franco, and Ezio Godoli. Paris 1900. New York: Rizzoli, 1977.

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    Despite the title, the subject is Parisian art nouveau, focusing on architecture and design. Authors are professors at the University of Florence; publication here follows on the heels of a previous book by Borsi on Belgian art nouveau. Seeing the movement born in Brussels, but popularized in Paris by the 1900 World’s Fair, authors focus on the work of Guimard, Jourdain, Sauvage, Lavirotte, and several other architects and designers. Large format with mostly black-and-white images including drawings, plans, and details.

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  • Brunhammer, Yvonne. Art Nouveau Belgium France. Houston, TX: Institute for the Arts, Rice University and Art Institute of Chicago, 1976.

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    On art nouveau as it emerged and developed in Belgium as a whole, though mainly Brussels, and, in France, mainly Paris, although Nancy too was a major art nouveau center. Subject is broken down by artistic form: painting, graphic arts, posters, sculpture and the decorative arts, and architecture. Essay on architecture in France is by François Loyer; in Belgium, by Maurice Culot.

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  • Collet, Isabelle, and Dominique Lobstein. Paris 1900: La ville spectacle. Paris: Musées de la Ville de Paris, 2014.

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    Comprehensive, splashy catalogue of exhibition staged at the Petit Palais. Popular in appeal, broad in coverage, not confined either to a discussion of art nouveau nor to architecture, but useful nonetheless in placing art nouveau architecture in the larger context of the city and its arts at large. Good collection of images, especially photographs of the exhibition at the time. Offers fascinating comparison to Jullian’s very different portrayal of the exhibition which he sees as a triumph for art nouveau.

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  • Jullian, Philippe. The Triumph of Art Nouveau: Paris Exhibition, 1900. Great Britain: Phaidon, 1974.

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    Popular account of the Paris exhibition, and a discussion in which architecture plays only a part. Gives good sense of the exhibition, its welter of foreign pavilions, celebration of electricity, the prominent role of decorative as well as fine arts. More on the exposition itself than on art nouveau. Numerous figures mostly in black and white.

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Nancy

Nancy became a second capital of art nouveau in France, taking on a decidedly different tune. Addressing primarily the decorative arts and aiming at their industrialization, architecture developments followed Parisian prototypes, with the movement in architecture introduced onto Nancean soil by the architect Henri Sauvage from Paris. Jourdain 1902 addresses this in his oft-quoted article which provides insight into the theories and platform of the movement in architecture in general, over and beyond his specific remarks on Sauvage’s villa. Like Hector Guimard, Sauvage was a follower of Jourdain, greatly admiring the older man and looking to him for inspirational guidance particularly in ideological matters; that Louis Marjorelle, Sauvage’s client for the Nancean house, contributed to the decoration of Jourdain’s popularly geared Samaritaine department store in Paris is telling, as is the fact that Sauvage collaborated with Jourdain on the Art Deco addition to the Samaritaine in the late ‘20s. The other four citations (Groussard, et al. 1985; Roussel 1992; Loyer, et al 1999; Thomas and Doucet 2018) are all retrospective views of the movement in Nancy which did so much to shape the identity of the city as we know it today.

  • Groussard, Jean Claude, Francis Roussel, Catherine Coley, et al. Nancy: Architecture 1900. Nancy, France: Ville de Nancy, 1985.

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    Small exhibition catalogue, drawn up by and in affiliation with the École d’Architecture de Nancy. Article on the principles of art nouveau in architecture by François Loyer, who situates it largely within a 19th- rather than a 20th-century context, and sees it as a last gasp of 19th-century eclecticism rather than beginning of something new. Small but useful black-and-white illustrations, mostly old, with details and some plans; foldout map of city showing major monuments. Text in French, with a rather rough English translation.

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  • Jourdain, Frantz. “La Ville Majorelle à Nancy.” Art Décoratif 4 (August 1902): 202–208.

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    On the house and studio the Parisian architect Henri Sauvage designed for the artist and designer Louis Majorelle in Nancy. An often-quoted article which summarizes the goals of the movement: the structural rationalism of progressive art nouveau architects as well as use of floral motifs and other artistic aims such as that of creating an overall aesthetically unified ensemble, or total work of art.

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  • Loyer, François. L’Ecole de Nancy 1889–1909: Art Nouveau et industries d’art. Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1999.

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    Catalogue of exhibition, Galeries Poirel, Nancy, sponsored by the Ville de Nancy. Excellent background on the contribution of l’ École de Nancy to art nouveau. Discusses the work of Nancean artists within context of the political, economic, and cultural life of the city; including the rapid growth regionally of industrialization and its collaboration with the decorative arts. Mainly devoted to those arts, with one essay on architecture. Beautifully illustrated, good black-and-white photos of the time plus color images, mainly of objets d’art.

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  • Roussel, Francis. Nancy Architecture 1900. 3 vols. Metz, France: Serpenoise, 1992.

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    Comprehensive publication comprising an inventory of some seventy-five major art nouveau buildings in Nancy with analyses by Roussel; includes discussion of the founding of the École de Nancy and situates the work of art nouveau architects in the broader context of the Lorraine region after the Franco-Prussian War.

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  • Thomas, Valérie, and Hervé Doucet. L’Ecole de Nancy: Art Nouveau et industrie d’art. Nancy, France: Editions d’Art Somogy, 2018.

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    Catalogue for an exhibition organized by the Musée des Ecole de Nancy and sponsored by the city. Focuses on the École de Nancy, a group of artists, architects, and manufacturers founded in 1901, with a shared goal of reforming the arts in alliance with industry, which was by then pervasive throughout Europe, and giving it a particular territorial or regional identity. Embraced the concept of the total work of art (Richard Wagner; William Morris) with unified design of architecture, interior decoration, and furnishings. In French.

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Individual Architects

Cited here are only major figures involved in the emergence of the movement in France and Belgium.

Victor Horta

Horta was of course one of the major figures in the art nouveau movement as it was realized architecturally, though hardly the most representative. It was to his Tassel House and other townhouses he did for mainly well-to-do clients in Brussels that the emergence of art nouveau in architecture is typically attributed. Delevoy and Brunhammer 1971 provides one of the first retrospective discussions of art nouveau as it was realized architecturally. Borsi 1977 focuses on art nouveau buildings in Brussells, primarily Horta’s; his later book, one of the first major monographs on him co-authored with Paolo Portoghesi (Borsi and Portoghesi 1991), focuses just on Horta; published by Rizzoli in New York, a major publicizer of postmodernism, it is indicative of the commonalities of the two movements a century later. Another monograph on Horta, Aubry and Vandenbreeden 1996, has less of the postmodernist political connections, and is more solely devoted to an in-depth discussion of Horta—his projects, drawing, clients—over his entire career.

  • Aubry, Françoise, and Jos Vandenbreeden, eds. Horta: Art Nouveau to Modernism. Ghent: Ludion Press, 1996.

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    Valuable source published in conjunction with Horta exhibition at Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels; principal author is curator of Musée Horta in Brussels. Celebrates him as instrumental in launching art nouveau and transforming Brussels into the capital of the new movement; sees his work stemming primarily from Great Britain (William Morris, Mackintosh), not France. Especially interesting essay is that on Walter Benjamin and the Parisian arcades by de Cauter; so too essay by Strauven on the importance of the cultural context.

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  • Borsi, Franco. Bruxelles 1900. New York: Rizzoli, 1977.

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    Focus is on art nouveau buildings in Brussels, primarily but not solely on Horta and van de Velde. Well illustrated with mainly black-and-white images; includes chronology and bibliography; text in both French and English. Originally published in 1974 (Brussels: Vokaer).

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  • Borsi, Franco, and Paolo Portoghesi. Victor Horta. New York: Rizzoli, 1991.

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    A major monograph, mostly of superb illustrations typical of the kind of costly, attention-grabbing books Rizzoli published in the ‘80s and ‘90s in conjunction with its promotion of postmodernism; follows other books on art nouveau architecture two decades earlier by the Italian Borsi, with this one now co-authored with Portoghesi, also Italian, an architect and major figure in the postmodernist movement. The book invites a joint analysis of the two movements almost a century apart.

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  • Delevoy, Robert L., and Yvonne Brunhammer. Pionniers du XXe siècle: Guimard, Horta, van de Velde. Paris: Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 1971.

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    Exhibition catalogue, modest in size and format, with numerous black-and-white photos. Lists the items displayed in the exhibition, each accompanied by list of references, though not all are illustrated. Important, as one of the first texts focused primarily on architecture in art nouveau rather than the movement as a whole. Essay on Horta is by Delevoy, who also wrote on van de Velde.

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Henry van de Velde

One of the two most well-known art nouveau architects in Belgium, van de Velde played a decidedly different role in the movement in genera, moving to Germany early on and playing a major role in cultivating the ideas as well as forms of the movement beyond the French-Belgian borders. His essays (van de Velde 1979), written at very different stages of his career and published as a whole only after his death, give a good idea of the development of his work and how it compares to other “pioneers” in the movement. Delevoy, et al. 1971, discussing Horta and Guimard as well as van de Velde, facilitating the comparison. Borsi 1977 on art nouveau buildings in Brussels includes van de Velde.

  • Borsi, Franco. Bruxelles 1900. New York: Rizzoli, 1977.

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    Focus is on art nouveau buildings in Brussels, primarily but not solely on Horta and Guimard. Well illustrated with mainly black-and-white images; includes chronology and bibliography; text in both French and English. Originally published in 1974 (Brussels: Vokaer).

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  • Delevoy, Robert L., Yvonne Brunhammer, and Jean Prouvé. Pionniers du XXe siècle: Guimard, Horta, van de Velde. Paris: Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 1971.

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    Exhibition catalogue, modest in size and format, with numerous black-and-white photos. Lists the items displayed in the exhibition, each accompanied by list of references, though not all are illustrated. Important as one of the first texts focused mainly on architecture, not the decorative arts. Essay on van de Velde is by Delevoy who also wrote the piece on Horta.

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  • van de Velde, Henri. Déblaiement d’art, Brussels: Archives d’Architecture Moderne, 1979.

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    Collection of essays by van de Velde including Déblaiement a’art, originally written in 1894. Includes La triple offense à la beauté and La voie sacrée. Text in French; no illustrations.

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Hector Guimard

The most well-known of the art nouveau architects in Paris, in part because of his designs for the entrances of the Métro subway system built for the 1900 Paris World’s Fair, but almost surely in part because of his own flair for self-promotion. Delevoy and Brunhammer 1971 were among the first to write about him and his two colleagues in architecture as pioneers of the new movement; Naylor and Brunhammer 1978, while not contributing much original research, is useful in focusing just on Guimard and his work alone; Musée d’Orsay 1994 goes well beyond this, with a collection of essays by major scholars addressing not just the formal qualities of Guimard’s work but from a number of different angles. The monograph Vigne 2003 comprehensively reflects new material in the Guimard archives in New York and elsewhere.

  • Delevoy, Robert L., and Yvonne Brunhammer. Pionniers du XXe siècle: Guimard, Horta, van de Velde. Paris: Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 1971.

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    Includes a short text on Guimard’s life and work, mainly a catalog of his work, with sketches, plans, drawings, photos (black and white) of his buildings, decorative details, and furniture.

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  • Musée d’Orsay. Guimard: Colloque International: Musée d'Orsay, 12 et 13 juin 1992. Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux, 1994.

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    A small but highly provocative publication representing talks given at a 1992 conference on Guimard commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of his death; organized by Claude Frontisi and Philippe Thiébaut, with essays by Alain Blondel, Lanier Graham, Françoise Dierkens-Aubry, Franco Borsi, Roger-Henri Guerrand, François Loyer, Bernard Marrey, and others.

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  • Naylor, Gillian, and Yvonne Brunhammer. Hector Guimard. Architectural Monographs 2. Academy edition. New York: Rizzoli, 1978.

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    This is part of the series of books on art nouveau architecture published by Rizzoli at this time when modernism was collapsing with postmodernism on the cusp, suggesting a theoretical and ideological component. Includes a chronology and bibliography, black-and-white photos, drawings, plans, and details of his major buildings.

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  • Vigne, Georges. Hector Guimard: Architect Designer (1867–1942). New York: Delano Greenidge Editions, 2003.

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    Author of earlier comprehensive monograph on Guimard, Vigne here presents a superb, visually rich compendium of his work with sumptuous photographs by Felupe Ferré in color as well as in black and white. Draws on the 1992 colloquium on Guimard at the Musée d’Orsay. Relatively short text, mainly descriptive. Includes drawings, plans, details, watercolors of over a hundred of his buildings, furniture, and projects, dating from 1888–1930; selected bibliography.

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Henri Sauvage

Sauvage was one of the more complex, interesting art nouveau architects in Paris at the time, practicing in a number of different areas from furniture design to low-cost housing; stylistically too he was multifaceted, involved fully in art nouveau during the Belle Époque with buildings such as the Loïe Fuller Theater for the 1900 Paris Exposition and the Villa Majorelle in Nancy on the one hand, and the progressive, hygienic, low-cost rue Trétaigne apartments with a reinforced concrete frame and brick infill in 1903 on the other. The Trétaigne apartments, at the forefront of the push for hygienic housing, bear instructive comparison with the far better-known luxury apartments Auguste Perret also built with a reinforced concrete frame the same year. As conservative forces gained momentum throughout the decade and aesthetic tastes changed, Sauvage weathered the shifts while remaining true to his principles, designing the greatly simplified setback rue Vavin apartments in 1912, then after the War collaborating with Frantz Jourdain on the Art Deco addition to the Samaritaine department store on the banks of the Seine. Culot and Grenier 1978 consists of essays by a number of well-known scholars and provides one of the first major monographs on Sauvage drawing on hitherto unpublished archival information. Loyer and Guéné 1987 broadens the perspective, discussing Sauvage’s work within the larger context of modernism. Minnaert 2002 is the most comprehensive study of Sauvage to date; based on a catalogue raisonné of the architect’s work, it includes drawings and projects as well as excellent photos, a full bibliography, and in-depth discussion of his wide-ranging work.

  • Culot, Maurice, and Lise Grenier, eds. Henri Sauvage 1873-1932. Bruxelles: Archives d’architecture Moderne, 1978.

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    Modest in size but comprehensive nonetheless; a monograph focused on the architect, with short critical essays by leading scholars, including one by French architect Antoine Grumbach; examines Sauvage’s architectural convictions as well as his work, ranging from high-end art nouveau villas to low-cost subsidized housing. Replete with good photos, plans, details, and drawings including projects, mostly black-and-white. Highly useful source, especially when viewed in the context of the changing theoretical climate at time it written. Originally published in French in 1976.

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  • Loyer, François, and Hélène Guéné. Henri Sauvage: Les immeubles à gradins. Liège, Belgium: Mardaga, 1987.

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    Addresses just one side of Sauvage’s multifaceted career, though perhaps the side best known in modernist circles: his set-back apartment buildings and projects which influenced not only the futurist architect Antonio Sant’Alia but also Le Corbusier and other modernists.

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  • Minnaert, Jean-Baptiste. Henri Sauvage ou l’exercice du reouvellement. Paris: Norma Editions, 2002.

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    Large format monograph, most comprehensive to date on the architect. Excellent illustrations, many in color, covering the architect’s entire wide-ranging career, from the Loïe Fuller Theater at the Paris 1900 Expo and Villa Majorelle in Nancy, both fully art nouveau, as well as turn-of-the-century low-cost subsidized housing in reinforced concrete and postwar set-back apartment buildings buildings, to his Art Deco addition with Frantz Jourdain to the Samaritaine on the banks of the Seine.

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Frantz Jourdain

As theorist, critic, literary figure, and prominent activist in the arts as well as architect, Jourdain played a major role in the art nouveau movement. His essay (Jourdain 1889) was but one of many critical articles promulgating the ideals and aims and the fundamental principles of the movement from its inception on. His novel (Jourdain 1893) was a fictional work inspired by his friendship with Emile Zola for whom he provided the description of a Second Empire department store, but enlivened and invigorated by his own imagination. Although Jourdain has been cited by numerous Secondary Sources which include architecture, the first major monograph devoted to him was Clausen 1987, based on a dissertation of 1975; this was followed by a far larger, well-illustrated book on the triad of Jourdains, including Frantz, his son Francis, and grandson Frantz-Philippe in 1988 (Barré-Despond and Tise 1988). A third edited volume (Cabestan and Lempereur 2015) is devoted solely to Jourdain’s principal building, the Samaritaine department store, with essays by scholars from several different fields.

  • Barré-Despond, Arlette, and Suzanne Tise. Jourdain: Frantz 1847–1935, Francis 1876–1958, Frantz-Philippe 1906–1990. New York: Rizzoli, 1988.

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    Monograph devoted to Jourdain family of architects and designers. Conceived and written with the help of the Jourdain family; tracks the history of the artistically talented, engaged family, from the architect Frantz through his son, the well-known, highly respected decorator Francis, and grandson, architect Frantz-Philippe. Good illustrations, many in color, including original family photographs.

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  • Cabestan, Jean-François, and Hubert Lempereur, eds. La Samaritaine Paris. Paris: Picard, 2015.

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    Comprehensive book of essays by scholars from different fields focusing on the Samaritaine department store, a major art nouveau building in the heart of Paris, designed by Frantz Jourdain, one of the main theorists of and spokesmen for the art nouveau movement, built 1905–1910. Includes essays on the origins of the Samaritaine enterprise, the architects of the building (the addition in the late ‘20s involved the collaboration of Henri Sauvage), and its construction. Text in French.

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  • Clausen, Meredith L. Frantz Jourdain and the Samaritaine: Art Nouveau Theory and Criticism. Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1987.

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    Monograph on the architect, critic, spokesman and one of primary movers of the art nouveau movement, based on original archival material. Jourdain was the fiery and outspoken architect of the Samaritaine department store in heart of Paris near Louvre and abutting Pont Neuf, also founder and president of the Salon d’Automne. An enormously important individual whose significance is yet to be fully realized, he was mentor to some of leading designers in the art nouveau movement, among them Guimard, Sauvage, Selmersheim, and Plumet.

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  • Jourdain, Frantz. “Décoration & le rationalisme architecturaux à l’Exposition Universelle.” Revue des Arts décoratifs 10 (Décember 1889).

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    A rich essay worth mining again and again. Notes the decadence of the academy, the backwardness of its teaching, the vitality of the decorative arts, the revolutionary structures of the Expo, and the need for architecture that responds to the modern world, new forms for new needs. Talks of the collaboration with industry, role of color, and rationality of structures that instead of utilizing massive masonry reduce materials to minimum needed for stability, allowing maximum light and space. Basically, a call to arms.

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  • Jourdain, Frantz. Atelier Chantorel. Paris: Bibliothèque-Charpentier, 1893.

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    Cast in the form of a contemporary novel with the protagonist a radical, revolutionary architect willing to break with the norm, Jourdain’s ideas spell out the need for an enlightened client allowing the architect to pursue own vision; historicism’s obsolescence; the needs of modern life demanding newly conceived forms with modern materials and industrial processes; in short, a call for rational architecture expressive of the modern age. Published at onset of art nouveau in architecture, the same year Horta completed the Tassel House in Brussels. Text in French.

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Jules Lavirotte

Perhaps the most flamboyant of the Parisian architects and frequently cited in publications on art nouveau, Lavirotte is the least studied. The one monograph available (Lavirotte and Barancy 2017) on him was produced by members of his family and is largely a biographical account of his life and work.

  • Lavirotte, Yves, and Olivier Barancy. Jules Lavirotte: L’Audace d’un architecte de l’Art Nouveau. Paris: JLA Edition, 2017.

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    Monograph published by Lavirotte family, with lavish photographs; text provides a short biography of his family life in Burgundy; schooling at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris; and descriptive essays on his major buildings, including early commissions in Tunisia before returning to Paris and embarking on career designing mostly high-end art nouveau buildings. Includes projects for inexpensive housing and public buildings, drawings, and plans. Amply illustrated; text in French.

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Art Nouveau in the 1920s: Surrealism, Salvador Dali, and Walter Benjamin

Attitudes toward art nouveau changed radically in the 1920s, largely as a result of Adolf Loos, modernism, and the banning of ornamentation. There were exceptions, however, to this major shift in values. Dali 1933, for one, questioned the modernist imperative of functionalism, defending art nouveau on aesthetic grounds. Walter Benjamin was another who, rather than following progressive trends at the time rejecting it outright, saw art nouveau positively, as de Cauter 1996 points out, seeing it as the point of departure for the whole concept of modernity. Focusing on the afterlife of art nouveau and its reception, this is a rich, fascinating topic deserving further study for which these articles might serve as springboards. A principal source would be Dali himself (Dali 1933); a second would be Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project, which, while not addressing art nouveau per se, portrays the consumer culture of Paris in which art nouveau flourished. Addressing Benjamin’s take on art nouveau is the essay by Lieven de Cauter in the monograph on Horta (Aubry and Vandenbreeden 1996, cited under Victor Horta)

  • Benjamin, Walter. The Arcades Project. Translated by Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.

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    Begun in Paris in 1927, in a milieu he found more congenial than that of Germany, and influenced by surrealism, toward which he was nonetheless ambivalent, the Arcades Project remained unfinished at the author’s death in 1940.

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  • Dali, Salvador. “De la beauté terrifiante et comestible de l’architecture ‘Modern’ style.” Minotaure 3–4 (1933).

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    Dali’s radical reinterpretation of art nouveau, staring down the modernists who condemned it on functional issues and instead defending it on aesthetic grounds.

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  • de Cauter, Lieven. “Walter Benjamin on Art Nouveau, in Aubry.” In Horta: Art Nouveau to Modernism. Edited by Françoise Aubry and Jos Vandenbreeden. Ghent, Belgium: Ludion Press, 1996.

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    Fascinating, provocative essay discussing Benjamin’s views on art nouveau (which he referred to as Jugendstil), which he saw as point of departure for the whole concept of modernity.

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  • Godoli, Ezio. “Guimard et Dali.” In Guimard: Colloque International: Musée d'Orsay, 12 et 13 juin 1992. Edited by Musée d’Orsay. Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux, 1992.

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    On Dali’s appreciation of Art Nouveau, who called it an “architecture délirante . . . le plus original et le plus extraordinarie de l’histoire de l’art.”

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Art Nouveau and Postmodernism in the 1970s and’80

As modernism with its ban on ornamentation and moralizing functionalist imperative collapsed in the late 1960s under the impetus of postmodernism, there was a revival of interest in art nouveau. Addressing their coexistence are the concluding chapters in Greenhalgh 2000 and Strauven 1996. Writing within the theory-driven climate of postmodernism and thus informed by its concerns are Delevoy, Wieser, and Culot in Bruxelles 1900: Capital de l’Art Nouveau and, somewhat later, along the same lines, Borsi and Portoghesi 1991.

  • Borsi, Franco, and Paolo Portoghesi. Victor Horta. New York: Rizzoli, 1991.

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    Portoghesi, architect and professor of architecture at the University of Florence, then University of Rome, as organizer of The Presence of the Past, the first Venice Architecture Biennale in 1980, was to become one of postmodernism’s most prominent spokesmen. His essays here reflect the language and thinking of postmodernism, which attacked the taboos of modernism and defended the rights of contemporary practitioners to draw inspiration from whatever segment of the past they saw fit.

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  • Delevoy, Robert, Giovanni Wieser, and Maurice Culot. Bruxelles 1900: Capital de l’Art Nouveau. Bruxelles: École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture et des Arts Visuels, 1971.

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    The essays here, while addressing the emergence of art nouveau in Brussels c. 1900, are invaluable in reflecting some of the theoretical questioning that led to the emergence of postmodernism in the later 1970s and 1980s.

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  • Greenhalgh, Paul. Art Nouveau: 1890–1914. London: V & A, 2000.

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    The concluding essay here by Greenhalgh provides an excellent historiography of art nouveau—bringing the account up to the 1980s and postmodernism—a reassessment of the role of ornamentation in architecture, and a fresh view of the movement untainted by the ideological baggage of the previous decades.

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  • Strauven, Francis. Horta: Art Nouveau to Modernism. Edited by Françoise Aubry and Josh Vandenbreeden. Ghent, Belgium: Ludion Press, 1996.

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    Strauven’s essay on Horta’s later work, after he turned from progressive art nouveau in the 1890s to a more conservative direction, underscores the importance of analyzing art nouveau within its original cultural context, as well as the myth of the modern movement, the loss of faith in functionalism in the 1950s and 1960s, and the climate of new theoretical inquiries that followed; this paved the way for postmodernism and the reassessment of artistic trends in the past, such as art nouveau, scorned by modernists.

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