This monumental fireplace and chimney piece were designed by Hector Guimard for a house commissioned by Louis Coilliot, a manufacturer of ceramic blocks and tiles. Coilliot gave Guimard his first opportunity to design a fully integrated architectural composition.
The fireplace is made of enameled stoneware fashioned from reconstituted lava, one of Coilliot's specialties.
In its original setting, as an element of the Art Nouveau design philosophy known as Gesamtkunstwerk (unified work of art), the fireplace stood within an arch formed by the stalk-like elements of an elaborate pear wood buffet. The arch motif was repeated in the central portion of the fireplace. The flanking vestigial piers have flattened capitals that echoed the buffet's flat shelves.
Although the Maison Coilliot still stands, most of its furnishings, including this fireplace, were sold at auction in the early 1990s and early 2000s.
|Location of Origin: Europe|
|Dimensions: 74.75h x 55w inTop part-- H: 26 3/4 in. W: 23 1/2 in. D: 10 3/4 in.Bottom legs-- H: 48 in. W: 18 3/4 in. D:23 3/4 in. Base lip-- W: 55 in. Total height: 74 3/4 in.|
|Primary Classification: Antiques, Decorative Arts and Furniture : Ceramics and Glass|
|Secondary Classification: All Other Categories : By Style / Period : Art Nouveau & Art Deco|
|Best known for his Paris Metro entrances, it is generally agreed that Hector Guimard introduced the Art Nouveau style to French architectural ironwork. The same spirit informed his ceramics, albeit on a smaller scale. For example, his Vase de Cerny, executed by the Sèvres National Manufactory, features a subtly ribbed columnar body that suggests a tight cluster of stalks, rising from an irregularly splayed base and terminating at the rim in a tangle of asymmetrical curves. The energetic twists and turns of the crowning forms seem to represent the moment just before first bloom.|
Hector Guimard was a leading proponent of the Gesamtkunstwerk (the Germanic concept of harmonious design of the built environment), and conjured large buildings, charming houses, functional apartments, and boutiques along with their architectural ornamentation - both ceramic and cast iron - furniture, wallpaper, and lighting fixtures. His lighthearted Metro entranceways may have heralded the French capital's modernity just in time for the Exhibition Universelle of 1900, but shortly after the exhibition Guimard joined forces with municipal societies devoted to improving living conditions in Paris, and in doing so helped to modernize the city. In addition, he was one of the first architects in France to successfully practice without a diploma from the École des Beaux-Arts, thereby advancing his profession toward independence from state control.
Born in Lyon in 1867, Hector Guimard was the son of an orthopedist and a former linen maid. He moved with his family to Paris in 1882, where at age 15 he registered in l'Ecole Nationale des Arts Decoratifs. After a short time, he received prizes and rewards that convinced him of his talent and potential. He pursued architecture and design as a career, continuing his education at l'Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts. There he studied in the atelier of Gustave Raulin, where he was dubbed the "Ravachol de l'Architecture," (referring to Ravachol, a terrorist who was later guillotined for a series of anarchistic bombings). The analogy suggests that Guimard was overtly zealous in his commitment to breaking down the barriers of the architectural establishment.
Professionally active from 1888, Guimard relied in the early years on family and family connections for commissions. He designed many private homes in the 16th arrondisement, a district then experiencing a period of expansion.
In 1895, after completing 22 projects, including houses, pavilions, and tombs, he began construction of the Castel Béranger. It was a cluster of three multi-use buildings, whose common ground floor (7,500 square feet) housed boutiques, artists' studios, Guimard's studio and office, and private apartments. Profoundly modern in its arrangement of spaces and use of materials, the neo-Gothic décor was traditional by any standard. That same year Guimard traveled to Brussels, where he was profoundly influenced by the Art Nouveau style that had been born there under the direction of Victor Horta, Paul Hankar, Henri Van de Velde, and Gustave Serrurier-Bovy.
Returning to Paris under their spell, Guimard radically modified the second part of the Castel Béranger, creating his own Art Nouveau vocabulary as he worked. His aesthetic arose partly from his belief that the natural world consists of basic forms that occur in endless variations. This may explain the swirling asymmetry of his work in contrast to the repetition of stylized plant motifs found in designs by Arts and Crafts practitioners such as William Morris. Guimard's personal interpretation of naturalism was non-specific. It was a powerful evocation of the universal tendencies of plant life: the energetic and inexorable tropisms that cause them to grow toward light, creep up brick walls, embrace lattice-work, and reach out for water. What makes Guimard's forms even more compelling are his occasional allusions to human anatomy, which can be easily ignored or savored, depending on the viewpoint of the beholder.
For the Castel Béranger, he designed abundant ironwork, stonework, architectural ceramics, fireplace surrounds, stained glass, furniture, wallpaper, carpets, and pottery, thereby putting his theory of endless variation to the test. As this project progressed, the Exposition Universelle of 1900 approached, and the city of Paris was finally authorized to create its own transportation network.
Guimard made a name for himself with the airy, organic designs he created for the Metro, where his cast iron railings seem to have come equipped with their own hybridized vines and outcroppings. While his ironwork was initially designed for his buildings - which were conceived as total works of art - the Saint-Dizier foundry eventually sold entire lines of Guimard ironwork that were intended to be incorporated into the work of other architects. Despite his fierce determination to control all aspects of his architectural projects, Guimard grasped the importance of art industries to the dissemination of his style and to his financial solvency. The idea was to develop a repertoire of new designs for cast iron and to enhance the creativity of industrial art. Although Saint-Dizier went bankrupt, it helped to develop what was known as the "Guimard style."
Guimard's aesthetic is aptly demonstrated in his ceramics as well as in his architectural work, albeit on a smaller scale. The design for the Vase de Cerny, executed by the Sèvres National Manufactory, is a good example. One of three vase designs supplied by Guimard to Sèvres, this model features a subtly ribbed columnar body, suggesting a tight cluster of stalks, rising from an irregularly splayed base and terminating at the rim in a tangle of asymmetrical curves. The energetic twists and turns of the crowning forms, suggestive of unfurling leaves, seems to represent the moment just before first bloom. It is as full of potential as anything on the verge of change, thereby a particularly appropriate design at the beginning of a new century. The exquisite crystalline glaze seems contribute energy to the composition, almost like splashes of life-sustaining water. The credit for the success of this ceramic masterpiece must shared with the Sèvres Manufactory, whose experimentation with crystalline glazes during the 1890s resulted in new levels of technical control. Prior to the late 1890s, crystalline glazes were accidents of kiln firing.
In 1909, at the age of 41, Hector Guimard married Adeline Oppenheim, a New Yorker aged 37. The daughter of a wealthy Jewish family, she was in Paris to study painting. The couple lived comfortably in a house of Guimard's design in the 16th arrondisement. Having broken down a number of official and stylistic barriers, he was now comfortably entrenched in the new establishment and continued his distinguished career until 1930. His final project was a country house for himself and his wife, which he hand-built with the help of one man. Little is known of his activities between 1930 and 1938, when he and his wife moved to New York's Upper East Side. Hector Guimard died in New York in 1942. His wife, who lived on for 23 years, devoted much of her time to donating his work to U.S. museums.
Hector Guimard once remarked, "When I see a house, or when I design a piece of furniture, I think of the spectacle we offer people." Although most of his buildings have succumbed to misguided urban renewal, the spectacle that he offered people lives on through its magnificent remnants.
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