Musée d'Orsay: Architecture and Graphic Arts

Architecture and Graphic Arts

The Birth of the “Style Guimard”

Architectural drawings and objets d'art in the Musée d'Orsay collection

Rooms 17 and 21

Dessin d'architecture
Hector GuimardBeaux-arts : concours 1ère classe, Une salle de billard© RMN-Grand Palais (musée d'Orsay) / Franck Raux
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”.

Artistic training

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.

To see the selection currently presented click here.

Crowning: Monduit manual

End of the nave

Maison MonduitRoof ridge with finial topped with a crown© RMN-Grand Palais (musée d'Orsay) / Stéphane Maréchalle
The lead casting art technique consists of hammering a sheet of lead or copper to make roof decorations forming the crowning. The Monduit foundry was founded in 1860 by Honoré (1824-1893) who, in taking over the company owned by hydrant man and plumber Durand, specialised in the architectural ornamentation of historic monuments. The same year, he partnered with entrepreneur Auguste Béchet and together they worked alongside the greatest architects of the time: Viollet-le-Duc (Notre-Dame), Lefuel (the Louvre), Garnier (Paris Opera).

In 1872, Honoré Monduit joined forces with Gaget and Gauthier, notably in the construction of the Statue of Liberty (by Bartholdi, with Eiffel), and lent his support to his son Philippe (1857-1909) in founding a new company. The latter, working with Jules Mesureur, expanded the production of roof ornaments: finials, crown post, crests, statues.

The most emblematic work, on display in the museum’s galleries, is the Archangel St Michael by Frémiet to crown the Mont Saint Michel. The Monduit foundry closed its doors in 1970. The Pasquier-Monduit donation that year, and subsequently in 1983 and 2000, saw sculpted replicas (Château de Pierrefonds) and drawings and photographs (Musée d’Orsay) from the workshop respectively enter national collections. This exceptional collection is representative of a little known art form, at the crossroads of architecture and sculpture, and the excellence of the firm.

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