Finding Art Nouveau in Paris

Energetic design. Asymmetrical, yet balanced. This whole apartment building, Castel Béranger, is Art Nouveau. It was architect Hector Guimard’s first important work, and it was noticed.

Geolina163 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
Geolina 163 / CC BY-SA

Soon afterwards, he was awarded a commission to design entrances to the new Metro. There had been a design competition, but Guimard had not officially entered it.

Photograph by Pamela Tartaglio

The structure is iron, exposed, and made decorative. These are characteristics of Art Nouveau architecture. The iron is painted green and in forms that suggest plants, flowers, and Crustacean-like designs (below). These entrances made Guimard famous, but at first Parisians weren’t sure that they liked them. The cast iron could be made elsewhere, so this was practical.

Photograph by Pamela Tartaglio

One of Guimard’s entrances is in the sculpture garden at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Huge plant-like stalks have flowers or buds which are actually amber glass lamps.

Paris in the 1890s

People sensed a stagnation in the western world. They called their time fin de siè·cle, meaning “end of the century.” They looked forward to the 1900s and wanted change. Paris was to host a world’s fair, and the Metro was built in anticipation of this 1900 Paris Exposition.

An Art Nouveau Church

I love surprises when I travel, and I spotted this around the corner from the charming Metro entrance I photographed (Abbesses, in Montmartre, Paris).

The door was open, so I went inside.

It’s a more restrained Art Nouveau. There’s no asymmetry as in the gate by Guimard. The style is subdued because it is a sacred space and maybe because it’s a departure from the other churches in Paris, which are older and traditional in style. This is considered the first modern church in Paris.

The curving balustrades sparkle.

Photo by Pamela Tartaglio

The Church of Saint John (St. Jean) was built over several years that spanned 1900. It took so long because construction was halted due to concerns over structural safety. The building passed tests, and the world’s first church made of reinforced concrete was completed in 1904. The architect was Anatole de Baudot.

Imagine. Those Metro entrances were being built at the same time as this.

My next post will appear on July 1. I hope you enjoyed Paris.

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8 thoughts on “Finding Art Nouveau in Paris”

    1. On my Rick Steves tour of Paris, we usually took the Metro. We were surprised when we came up to the sidewalk through that entrance. I was captivated. Glad you enjoyed this. I’ll make sure your email is on the list.

  1. Thank you Pamela ! Nice to know we have common interest in art history. Waiting for your next one. May be art deco? Best wishes, Ben

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