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La naissance du style Guimard. Dessins d’architecture et objets d’art de la collection du musée d’Orsay

The Musée d'Orsay has, since 1995, held the large collection of drawings (over 2 000) that Guimard had deposited in the Orangerie of the Saint-Cloud estate in 1918, and which were saved from destruction in 1968 by the Association d'Etude et de Défense de l'Architecture et des Arts Décoratifs du XXe Siècle.

Since then, Hector Guimard has been the subject of a major rehabilitation, which has highlighted how important the abstract nature of his ornamental vocabulary was for the birth of modern art.

On the occasion of the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Hector Guimard's birth, the Musée d'Orsay is planning to look back at the training of this iconic architect of Art Nouveau by presenting a selection of drawings from his time as a student at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs and then at the École des Beaux-Arts (1883-1893). These drawings give us a better understanding of the complexity of sources, which, before he discovered Victor Horta's architecture in 1895, was the crucible of the famous “Style Guimard”.

After distinguishing himself at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs (1883-1885), where he became aware of Viollet-le-Duc's Gothic Rationalism, Guimard spent twelve years at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts (1885-1897). His experience there was not entirely crowned with success, as he failed to win the school's most prestigious prize, the Prix de Rome. His radical stance even resulted in his fellow students calling him the “Ravachol” of architecture – a reference to a notorious political anarchist of the time. Indeed, the drawings that Guimard produced as part of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts monthly competitions reveal how the young architect managed to breathe new life into this traditional exercise, with original layouts, a new ornamental exuberance and graphic freedom. But the Ecole des Beaux-Arts was itself in the throes of change, as shown here by the drawings of Louis Pille and Louis Boille, two architects who were almost contemporaries of Guimard. Wishing to support himself, which could explain his relative lack of success while a student, the young architect was teaching perspective at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs at the same time, and trained many pupils, following the example of the young decorator Émile Bernaux, a collection of his drawings are presented here.

Relevant research areas: Western Europe, 19th Century

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