Henry Van de Velde
Théâtre des Champs-Elysées

First proposal for the facade of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées
Henry Van de Velde (1863-1957), Marcel Guilleminault (1882-1966)
First proposal for the facade of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées
Circa 1911
Pencil and graphite
H. 56,2; W. 85,7 cm
© ADAGP, Paris © Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Alexis Brandt

Premier projet pour la façade du théâtre des Champs-Elysées [First proposal for the facade of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées]

After the idea was initiated by the theatre promoter Gabriel Astruc and the financier Gabriel Thomas, who wished to provide Paris with a large modern auditorium for light opera and music, there was a long and arduous process before the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées was finally built. It was first of all entrusted to the architect Henri Fivaz, a friend of Astruc. He soon called in Roger Bouvard, son of the director for architectural services in Paris, no doubt to facilitate approval of his project. Then the painter Maurice Denis, a friend of Gabriel Thomas, advised him to call on the Belgian architect Henry Van de Velde, then at the height of his fame. Van de Velde joined the project from May 1910, with responsibility for decorating the building.

But Van de Velde did not restrict himself to this, and also redesigned the neo-Louis XVI facade designed by Bouvard. By March 1911, he had decided on the main principles: removal of all ornamentation, a geometric layout with a ternary rhythm and accentuation of the pylons to reinforce the impression of verticality. This very eloquent pencil drawing is a variation based on these three principles. Marcel Guilleminault was appointed to supervise its construction, but it was the entrepreneur Auguste Perret whom Van de Velde finally called in to complete his building in reinforced concrete and who gradually supplanted the Belgian architect.

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