Although probably best known as the designer of the iconic Paris Metro station metalwork, Hector Guimard (1867-1942) one of the most prominent innovators of the art nouveau style, was an architect who focused on domestic design in many media. I find his ability to find a way to execute his design aesthetic in many media a sign of a truly versatile designer with a strong sense of his own aesthetic. He created decorative objects from ceramics, to metal picture frames to furniture fittings as part of a complete art nouveau interior. When he designed buildings the exteriors reflected their inventive interior spaces with curving, sinuous forms and art nouveau architectural elements, including balcony grilles. The balcony welcomes the bystander to contemplate the taste of the person who lives inside, giving a peek at the inside taste. It also serves as an advertisement for the complete integration of design espoused by Guimard.
He once wrote:
"Beauty appears to us in perpetual variety. No parallelism or symmetry; forms are engendered from movements which are never alike…For construction, do not the branches of the trees, the stems, by turn rigid and undulating furnish us with models?"
This balcony grille, executed by the Saint Dizier Foundry to Guimard designs, once adorned a building in an ensemble of buildings at 17, 19, and 21 rue La Fontaine and 8 and 10 rue Agar, (Paris) built from 1909-11. From private French residences to small pre-fabricated Parisian apartments, such cast-iron works were incorporated throughout several exterior schemes, emphasizing the variability of cast-iron, both as a decorative material and early example of mass-production. The manufacturer responsible for producing Guimard’s architectural metalwork was the Saint-Dizier foundry. These grilles, therefore, serve as an excellent example of a design and industry collaboration.
After Guimard’s death in 1942 in New York, his widow gave a variety of objects to Cooper-Hewitt, including dresses he designed for her. However, this grille, a recent acquisition, is the first exterior architectural design work by Guimard in the collection.
Designed by Hector Guimard (French, 1867-1942)
Manufactured by Saint-Dizier Foundry, Paris, France
H x W x D: 50.8 x 83.8 x 1.9 cm (20 in. x 33 in. x 3/4 in.)
Museum purchase from the Members' Acquisitions Fund of Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum