Musée d'Orsay: Art Nouveau Revival 1900 . 1933 . 1966 . 1974

Art Nouveau Revival
1900 . 1933 . 1966 . 1974

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Photographed by Patrice Habans, Paris-Match n°1055, 26 July 1969'Salvador Dalí emerging from the basement of the subconscious with a romantic anteater on a lead, the animal that André Breton had chosen as an ex-libris.'© ADAGP, Paris © Habans / Paris Match / Scoop

Tributes from the Surrealists


Before Art Nouveau returned to favour, it had received occasional, limited recognition from the Surrealist group. In 1933, Salvador Dalí published an article in the Minotaure journal entitled "On the Terrifying and Edible Beauty of Art Nouveau Architecture”, illustrated with photographs by Man Ray and Brassaï, devoted respectively to the work of Antoni Gaudí and Hector Guimard. The way they were viewed was coloured by the somewhat unorthodox captions, written by Dalí himself who, several years earlier, with his painting The Enigma of Desire – My Mother, My Mother, My Mother, had paid tribute to the telluric world of the Catalan architect.
Clovis TrouilleLe Palais des Merveilles© ADAGP, Paris © Photo Claude Caroly

At the same time, Dalí discovered the work of Clovis Trouille (who used to introduce himself as a "survivor of 1900"), delighting in his lack of self-censorship and his recurrent references to Art Nouveau. Whilst Trouille was still referring back to the Palace of Marvels, in 1960, Dalí continued into the 1970s to compare "the ignominious design of Le Corbusier" with the ornamentation of Guimard, which he considered to be "the most libidinous of all".

It was also in the 1930s that the Finnish designer Alvar Aalto created his sinuous, free flowing, expressive shapes, reminiscent of the most abstract creations of Art Nouveau. This master of organic design opened the way for many creators, including Isamu Noguchi with his famous Table basse "IN 50" in 1944.

Anonymous'Snail' Salon, by Carlo Bugatti© Musée d'Orsay / Patrice Schmidt

Organic design


The masters of Art Nouveau continued to favour a close study of living organisms. Some of these masters produced representations of flora and fauna, stylised to varying degrees. Others went down the route towards abstraction: Carlo Bugatti's "Snail" chair prefigures Günter Beltzig's "Floris" chair and even the famous Panton Chair, created in 1959 by the Danish designer Verner Panton which has since become a great classic of contemporary interior design. As for Carlo Mollino's creative works in the 1950s, they recall the frames of Gaudí's furniture.

Verner PantonPhantasy Landscape, Cologne, Visiona 2© Verner Panton Design, Bâle, Suisse
Later on, the term 'organic' tended to indicate any object whose characteristics were adapted to the demands of the body and mind of modern man. Organic design stood in opposition to the excesses of an icy functionalism that favoured static, rectilinear structures. The new materials – plastic, fibreglass, polyurethane foam, polyamide jersey - promoted a simplified idiom, based on fluidity and rhythmic freedom. The shapes of Verner Panton (Phantasy Landscape), and Olivier Mourgue (Cellule Cafétéria) invite the user to curl up and let the imagination run free.

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