Garden designers and brothers André and Paul Vera designed stunning landscape architecture that reflected the changing mode of the early 20thcentury and the shift toward rational modernism. Their unique vocabulary of geometric forms, symmetry and bold color contrasts, helped usher in the Art Moderne style, applying it not to just furniture and architecture, but the natural world as well.

André Vera was a founding member of the Atelier Francais, founded in 1912 by the designer Louis Sue.  The impetus for the Atelier was to unite French artisans and designers to create a modern style that could compete with the more pared down geometric styles of the Weiner Werkstätte and the English Arts and Crafts, yet still referenced French tradition.  Vera published a manifesto titled, “Le Nouveau Style,” published in L’Art decorative in January 1912. In it Vera contended that a modern style of decorative arts should reject internationalism and pastiche but nevertheless continue French traditions, especially the rationalism of Louis XVI. The manifesto also retained the art nouveau motif of using nature as inspiration, yet rejected the sinuous, curving line, in favor of clarity, order and harmony and the use of bright, frank color schemes.

This design was preparatory for a plate in the brothers book, Le Nouveau Jardin, published in 1912. The book features 35 plates and woodcut designs by Paul along with two chapters on André’s theories on the modern garden. This is followed by plans and descriptions for rustic, rose trellised and fantasy gardens along with sections on bee-keeping, fruit cultivation and garden ornaments.  The brothers’ genius came from their sense of collaboration, beginning with André’s sense of the conceptual and Paul’s skill in architecture and illustration.

For this ‘garden of love,’ the home is situated at the center of the ground plan.  The black pattered border represents groves of trees to provide privacy.  The smaller squares indicate planned gardens where the colored sections imply flowers as well as colored gravel in black, shiny jet, white marble and red and yellow.  This nuanced encounter between artifice and nature is a defining characteristic of a Vera garden.

Erin Gillis is a Masters student in the History of Decorative Arts and Design program at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum/Parsons New School for Design.  She worked as a photo editor in the magazine and fashion industries in New York after graduating with a degree in Art History from Columbia College, Chicago and is pursuing research in late 19th and 20th century interiors and material culture.

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