Hector Guimard (1867-1942)

Hector Guimard was one of the most famous French architects and designers. His name is inextricably linked with the Art Nouveau style and his works are widely known.

Hector Guimard with his wife

Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org

About his life

Hector-German Guimard was born in Lyon on May 25, 1867; in 1882 he began his training at the National School of Decorative Arts in Paris directed by Louvier de Lajolais, continuing his studies in 1885 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris. Four years later he participated in the Universal Exposition with a commission for the Electricity Pavilion. Hector drew inspiration from some of the new architectural theories of the late 1800s. His designs were influenced by the radical ideas of the French architect Viollet-le-Duc and the sinuous architecture of the Belgian Victor Horta. Under their influence, Guimard created several exceptional avant-garde works. In 1895, after visiting the first Art Nouveau building, the Hotel Tassel by Victor Horta in Brussels, Guimard completely redefined his artistic approach.

Castel Beranger
Castel Beranger, Guimard, 1894-1898, Paris

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/41c0e42d-8f5f-439f-8b5a-8234593e56d8 by stevecadman

What were his major works?

  • Castel Beranger. From 1894 to 1898, following his discovery of Horta‘s Tassel Hotel, Guimard made radical changes to the project. First, he planned to design it in Gothic style, but after it became one of the first Art Nouveau structures outside Belgium. He made it dynamic, through the use of projections and indentations. The structure is embellished by the highly innovative matching of materials like hammered iron, brick, stone, and ceramics, while a refined naturalistic decoration fills the interior with exuberant, curvilinear plant motifs.
La station art nouveau de la porte Dauphine (Hector Guimard)
Entrance to the Porte Dauphine metro station, 1898-1905

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/52ec9f72-acd0-4fa5-a5b9-fdc8b1823d93 by dalbera

  • Entrances of the Paris Metro were designed and created from 1898 to 1905. Guimard’s amazing metal Art Nouveau designs (c.1899-1901), with their flowing lines and floral shapes, shocked Parisians, who thought his use of iron far too Germanic. As a result, most of his metro station entrances, including all of the large ones, were later demolished.
  • Hotel Guimard is a luxury residence known designed from 1909 to 1912. Guimard designed most of the interior objects and fixtures himself as well as a number of unique items of furniture, which were considered to be integral parts of the structure.
Hotel Guimard
Hotel Guimard, Guimard, 1909-1912, Paris

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/33aba6bf-7bd2-4695-a907-3d2295993f84 by stevecadman

The entrances of the metro in Paris

At the end of the 19th century, a competition was launched for the construction of 3 works: a standard stand, a stand for the Bastille stop, and one for the Etoile stop. So it was that the choice fell on Hector Guimard, architect, already known for the art-nouveau building Castel Beranger. Guimard chose cast iron, a “new material”, cheap and easy to model, so much so that these works were one of the first examples of mass production in architecture, and perhaps for this reason Guimard became one of the first architect-designers.
The “font” of the METROPOLITAN writing was also created by Guimard. Green iron and elegant letters are irrevocably associated with the entire visual brand of the metro system.

Metro station. Paris, 1904

Image source: https://www.archdaily.com

How can we identify Guimard’s style?

The main claim of the current of Art Nouveau, of which Hector Guimard is one of the most important French exponents, is the unity of architecture, furnishings, and layout of the rooms. The decorative object or piece of furniture must not remain isolated in a room but, on the contrary, must be perfectly integrated with the style of the entire home.

Cabinet (Hector Guimard) - Virginia Museum of Fine Arts - Richmond VA {juni 2012}
Cabinet (Hector Guimard) – Virginia Museum of Fine Arts – Richmond VA {juni 2012}

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/3ee69c3b-faef-4d97-a73d-c89fc896dce1 by westher

The work of Guimard is easy to distinguish among the other practitioners of the Art Nouveau style. His projects are characterized by plastic, abstract, and sometimes bizarre plant and floral images in iron, glass, and carved stone, which usually twist and bend into irregular and asymmetrical shapes.

Hector Guimard (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon)
Hector Guimard (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon)
Furniture for the bedroom by Hector Guimard, 1909–1912

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/bdd0ef99-8a28-4c38-8932-4b51f2d755c0 by dalbera

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