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  • Writer's pictureAnn Fitzgerald


Updated: Oct 30, 2020

The Art Nouveau design movement appeared towards the end of the 19th century and covers the period spanning roughly from 1890 to 1910. It began with the Arts & Crafts movement in England and spread throughout Europe and the United States with each country having its own specificity and name for the movement; Jugendstil (Youth Style) in Germany, Sezessionstil in Austria, Tiffany style in the United States, Modernissimo in Spain or Liberty Style in Italy. In France and Belgium, it was also known as Style 1900 or Style Moderne.

The movement grew out of a desire to break with the elitism of academic art and to banish the distinction between major and minor art forms. It advocated total harmony between architecture and interior design. It was influenced by the hand craftsmanship of the Arts and Crafts movement and by the flowing lines of Japanese wood block prints. It advocated the return of nature and natural objects to the centre of art.

The common characteristics of Art Nouveau are the use of muted colours, swirling lines known as whiplash curls and natural imagery. It encompassed all art forms; architecture, painting, the decorative arts (jewellery, glass, ceramics, furniture, textiles, household silver, and lighting) & graphic arts.

In France, the most celebrated architects associated with the Art Nouveau movement are Jules Lavirotte, Hector Guimard (to whom we owe the ornate entrances to the Paris metro),Henri Sauvage, Alexandre et Edouard Autant to name but a few..

The Art Nouveau movement was dismissed by critics in France under the derogatory nickname “Noodle Style” and slowly went out of fashion towards 1910 to be replaced by Art Déco. Many Art Nouveau buildings and edifices were destroyed in the 1960s, however, many still remain intact today.

Click through the galleries below to see some of the more famous Art Nouveau buildings in Paris.

JULES LAVIROTTE (1864 - 1929)

Jules Lavirotte was one of the leading Art Nouveau architects in Paris whose exuberant and imaginative style is immediately recognizable. Working in collaboration with the ceramic manufacturer Alexandre Bigot, he adorned the façades of many of his buildings with glazed ceramic tiles and sculptures some of which were erotic in inspiration, particularly in his earlier works. He was a three-time winner of the City of Paris Façades Contest in 1901, 1905 & 1907.

​​​​​​HECTOR GUIMARD (1867 – 1942)

Although Hector Guimard is one of the most famous names associated with the Art Nouveau movement in France, he never considered himself to be a proponent of Art Nouveau, preferring instead to call his style – Le Style Guimard.

The most noticeable example of his particular style was the construction of the Castel Beranger from 1895 - 1898 following a visit to Belgium and a meeting with Victor Horta, one of leading names in Art Nouveau architecture there. This building won him the 1st Paris City Façades Contest (Concours de Façades de la Ville de Paris) in 1898. Although, this achievement garnered him a certain level of notoriety, he will be forever known as the architect who designed the beautifully ornate entrances to the Paris Métro in 1900. Out of a total of 167 original entrances by Guimard, 86 still survive today.

With the onset of World War II, Guimard left Paris in 1938 to live in New York where he died in 1942 at the age of 75. In the 30 years following the war, over half of Guimard's buildings were destroyed to make way for new developments. Efforts to preserve his work began in the late sixties and ealy seventies.


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