Hector Guimard (French, 1867–1942) is best known for his architectural works, in particular his iconic Art Nouveau subway entrances for the Paris Métro company. Guimard’s designs employed sensuous curving lines and natural organic forms that transmitted exceptional elegance. For Guimard, architectural design was all-encompassing; every interior and exterior detail was considered as a total work of art. He was not known for designing many personal accessories, but during a particularly happy period in his life, he designed textiles, jewelry and clothing for his wife. Guimard married Adeline Oppenheim in Paris in 1909; she was an American painter from a wealthy New York family. At their wedding, she wore a dress designed by her husband. After their marriage, he devoted himself to the design of their new home, Hôtel Guimard.
In 1949, Adeline Guimard, now a widow, made a generous gift of textiles to the Cooper-Hewitt that included this sample of a beautifully embroidered dress panel designed by her late husband. It was made around the time of their marriage. The unfinished sample is a delicate and monochromatic expression of curvilinear lines suggesting stylized lilies. Embroidered on a sheer silk chiffon ground, the stitches include chain stitch using a tambour hook and other types including stem, satin and wrapping stitches. There are also areas of net insertion indicating that the final product may have been worn over another fabric, possibly a dark one, which would show the embroidered details to a greater advantage. Other textiles in the gift included a handsome tea cloth and a pair of curtains. Adeline Guimard worked tirelessly after her husband’s death to preserve his legacy. She made generous donations of furniture and textiles to several American museums.