Eugène Viollet-le-Duc
Project for a Painted Canvas

Project for a Painted Canvas for the book "Histoire d'une maison"
Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (1814-1879)
Project for a Painted Canvas for the book "Histoire d'une maison"
Circa 1873
Pencil and water colour
H. 19.4; W. 11.2 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Projet de toile peinte pour l'ouvrage "Histoire d'une maison" [Project for a Painted Canvas for the book "Histoire d'une maison"]

Viollet-le-Duc's talents were also used for educational purposes, as he published two children's books. One tells the story of a boy who wanted to build a house and carefully followed the teaching of his cousin, who was an architect. Through a simple colourful text, the author shows his desire to make architecture a total art. So ideas on furnishing and decorating the house are just as important as the design of the building. In this respect, Viollet-Le-Duc can be considered one of the forerunners of Art Nouveau. Attracted by mediaeval art down to the details of decoration, he proposed to adorn the walls of the main rooms in the house with tapestry-like decorations. But his rationalist concern for the quality-price ratio led him to develop the technique of painted canvas. He coated a coarse-grained canvas with hide glue and, when it was dry, painted it with distemper (pigments, water and glue). The patterns were ornamental plant forms applied with stencils. The project shown here was intended for the living room. It is divided into registers which form an upper and lower border filled with "Gothic" shapes from which emerge upright datura flowers, while the stalks and leaves of the carnations in the broad central register are treated in a naturalist manner. The canvas had to be put on a frame which had the advantage of insulating it from the wall and preserving it from deterioration. The colours, a range of browns, reds and greens, also recall studies of mediaeval polychromy.

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