Paris Wanderlust: Sexy Art Nouveau

Sexy Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau architecture must have appeared like a breath of fresh air amid regimented Haussmannian streets, the eclecticism of Beaux Arts architecture, and centuries of revivals of models from classical antiquity. Art Nouveau flourished only for about twenty years, from 1895 to 1914, the start of World War I, but it unleashed an explosion of creativity in architecture, infused variety into the urban landscape, and introduced the sensuality of sinuous and “whiplash” lines into the architectural syntax.

Department stores of the grands boulevards

Printemps Haussmann

Printemps Haussmann rose from the ashes of its 1881 fire, and its new architecture anticipated Art Nouveau styles. The use of glass and metal, the graceful curvilinear forms, and the colourful terracotta mosaics introduced Art Nouveau elements.

Paul Sedille’s reconstructed Printemps Haussmann (1880s)

Galeries Lafayette

A set of balconies surrounding the interior atrium of Galeries Lafayette, built during the full flower of Art Nouveau:

Architects: Georges Chedanne and his pupil Ferdinand Chanut, Galeries Lafayette, atrium balconies (1912)

La Tour Eiffel (1889)

La Tour Eiffel was built as the grand entrance to the 1889 Paris Expo, which celebrated the centennial of the French Revolution. With its latticed wrought iron incorporating curved forms, La Tour Eiffel epitomized the technological expression of early Art Nouveau.

Gustave Eiffel, Tour Eiffel (1889), view from Tour Montparnasse
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Art Nouveau architects: Lavirotte, Raquin, Guimard

Jules Lavirotte

The Lavirotte Building was built at the time of the 1900 Paris Exposition, an important showcase for the Art Nouveau style. Here is Art Nouveau architecture in full blossom, its rich and varied forms heavily ornamented and utterly original.

Architect: Jules Lavirotte (1864-1929), Lavirotte Building (1899-1901), 29 Avenue Rapp (7e)

Polychrome ceramics boldly enliven the facade of the apartment building.

Lavirotte’s exuberant design won a 1901 competition for most original facade in the 7th arrondissement. It’s easily the sexiest facade in Paris, hands down.

Phallic encoding on the entrance door:

Octave Raquin

Raquin built “Les Arums” in 1900 as a private college.

Architect: Octave Raquin, Les Arums (1900) 33 Rue du Champ de Mars (7e)

The decoration of the ornate but homogeneous facade derives inspiration from flowers: arums and calla lilies.

Marquise entrance with ornate wrought iron gate of arums:

Hector Guimard

Hôtel Guimard

Pioneering Art Nouveau architect Guimard made his debut in 1899 with his Castle Beranger, which won a competition for best new facade. Ten years later came the plainer Hôtel Guimard, the architect’s own residence. The relatively unadorned building allows its subtle curved lines and formal consistency to take center stage. It’s a quieter, stripped-down Art Nouveau.

Hector Guimard (1867-1942) Hôtel Guimard (1909), 122 Avenue Mozart (16e)

When I was there in 2019, the building was slated for cleaning and restoration.

Métro Mirabeau

Many of Guimard’s métro entrances were destroyed. The surviving ones are considered treasures and protected as historical monuments. That sometimes happens when you’re is ahead of your time.

Below: a surviving Art Nouveau entrance at Métro Mirabeau, designed in about 1913 by Guimard. It features escutcheons along the railing, and lamp posts with reddish lights, glowing like alien lily-of-the-valley pods. Over the entrance hangs a “Métropolitain” sign with characteristic font.

Hôtel Lutetia

Luxury hotel built in 1910 in Art Nouveau style:

Architects: Louis-Charles Boileau and Henri Tauzin, Hôtel Lutetia (1910), 45 Boulevard Raspail (6e)

Otherly Art Nouveau

The flowery facade of Rue Froidevaux

This 1929 building for artist studios and residences features late Art Nouveau decoration on the facade:

Architect: Georges Grimbert, artist studios and residences on Rue Froidevaux (1929) (14e)

The Building with the Green Balconies

The unusual building below has been described as Art Nouveau. It was built when that architectural movement was in full swing, but it’s an eclectic interpretation of it. The rectilinear green railings display nothing of the characteristic sinulous wrought iron designs, but the building’s curved forms faintly register Art Nouveau. Its presence in the 15th arrondissement is arresting.

83-85 Rue Blomet (1909) (15e)

Some Art Nouveau details:

Double ogive with cats

Next: Art Deco

Camille Martin

One response to “Paris Wanderlust: Sexy Art Nouveau

  1. Pingback: Paris Wanderlust: The Haussmannian Revolution | Rogue Embryo

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