Hector Guimard (French, 1867-1942), architect, designer and craftsman, was best known for his iconic Paris Metro entrances (If visiting Paris, you may want to note this contribution).  Guimard heralded the Art Nouveau style to France at a time when historic references in the arts were losing favor. Art Nouveau brought a new vitality to the art scene and promoted decorative arts and crafts to center stage. The ailing Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory again became a leader in ceramics production by adopting the Art Nouveau style.

This porcelain vase of 1908 is based on one of three vase designs Guimard supplied to the Sèvres factory. This model, known as the Cerny vase (ca. 1900) features a subtly ribbed columnar body, appearing rooted to its base. An underlying dynamic force upsweeps it to a series of curves and swirls at the crown where opposite placed scrolls project—suggesting perhaps—the initial bloom of flowers. The glaze’s muted earthy tones in mottled brown, rust and gray-green colors seem to capture nature’s bounty, in abstraction. The exquisite crystalline glaze, a Sèvres innovation, provides the vase with a spiritual effect.

Guimard’s aesthetic was inspired by nature and abstracted floral and plant designs. His intent was not to copy nature, but to capture its very essence. Amorphous undulating lines, vibrant curves, and non-figurative organic designs dominated his vision. Ahead of his time, Guimard celebrated abstraction a decade before it became mainstream.

Art Nouveau had a short life. By the outbreak of World War I in 1914 it was out of fashion. Much of Guimard’s works were destroyed. Sadly, by the time of his death, he was all but forgotten. In the 1960s there was a resurrection of interest in the Art Nouveau style and especially in Guimard.  His works were rediscovered, and he was celebrated posthumously.

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