Nancy, the triumph of Art Nouveau
l’École de Nancy, which endeavoured to ally art and industry, transformed the capital of the Duchy of Lorraine into France’s premier Art Nouveau city, second only to Paris. Although Nancy lacks the originality of an architect of the stature Hector Guimard, creator of the Paris Metro style, in the decorative arts Nancy surpassed even the capital. Nancy owes its success to Emile Gallé, who was the catalyst for l’École Nancy, officially formed in 1901, three years before his death.
Joseph Janin, Peacock, Winter Garden, Maison Bergeret, Rue Lionnois, Nancy
Nancy is ‘a city, the refinement of which recalls, on a small scale, that of Athens.’
Ma racine est au fond des bois (My root is deep in the woods)
It is necessary to have a pronounced bias in favour of models taken from flora and fauna, while giving them free expression.
Emile Gallé, Aube and Crepuscule (Dawn and Dusk), 1904, Musée de Nancy.
Conscious or unconscious, the symbol qualifies, vivifies the work; it is its soul.
18th century Ville d’Art: the legacy of Stanislas Leszczyński
The fortunes of Nancy, capital of the Duchy of Lorraine and Bar, took a dramatic turn when the duchy was ceded to Stanislas Leszczyński, the exiled King of Poland. This privilege was granted to Stanislas, the father-in-law of Louis XV, for the duration of his life. The exiled King devoted his energy to philanthropy and beatifying his capital, creating a grand square that united the medieval ‘Vieux Ville’ with the ‘Ville Neuve’, as conceived by Charles III, Duke of Lorraine. Balanced on all sides by matching buildings, Place Stanislas, as it is known today, is close to architectural perfection. To the south, l’Hôtel de Ville is flanked by two pavilions to either side of the square, to the east originally the Collège de médecine and the Pavillon Jacquet, a private residence and to the west, the former Bishop’s Palace, now the Opera, and l’Hôtel de la Reine, for the King’s Intendant or administrator. Remarkably this architectural tour de force was completed in four years, between 1752-55, by the court architect Emmanuel Héré de Corny (1705-1763).
East: originally the Pavillon Jacquet, a private residence and the Collège de médecine, now the Fine Arts Museum.
West: originally l’Hôtel de la Reine, for the King’s Intendant or administrator and the former Bishop’s Palace, now the Opera.
However, it is thanks to maître ferronnier Jean Lamour(1698-1771) that Nancy is known as the Ville aux Portes d’Or or ‘City with Golden Gates’. With their cartouches, swags, and flowers, Lamour’s gilded wrought iron gates perfectly express the Rococo style of the mid-18th century. On the north-east side, the gates frame an elaborate Rococo fountain of Neptune and to the north-west, the fountain of Amphitrite by Barthélémy Guibal. Lamour’s organic, curvilinear, quintessentially French Rococo ironwork would shape Nancy’s distinctive Art Nouveau Style Florale.
Place Stanislas was conceived as homage to Louis XV. According to legend the fountains flowed with wine in 1755 when Stanislas inaugurated one of the finest squares in the world. Before the French Revolution, a statue of Louis XV dominated the square, facing the triumphal arch known today as the Arc Héré or Porte Héré. The arch leads into another beautiful square, also unifed by Héré, the Place de la Carrière, its name denoting its use for jousting and other equestrian games. The square is closed to the north by the Palais du Gouvernement. A third square Place d’Alliance, with a magnificent fountain by Paul-Louis Cyfflé, completes Héré’s urban masterpiece.
Arc Héré or Porte Héré, originally paid homage to Louis XV.
19th century Ville d’Art: the triumph of Art Nouveau
Nancy’s second Golden Age only came about due to a disastrous war and mass-migration. The city’s destiny, and that of France, was determined by the Franco-Prussian war (1870-71). A humiliating defeat led to the loss of France’s eastern territories. Most of Alsace and approximately one third of Lorraine, the Moselle department, was annexed by the German Reich following the Treaty of Frankfurt, which was signed on 10 May 1871. This became the Imperial territory of Alsace-Lorraine (Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen). In 1872 French citizens in the annexed areas were given a stark choice; stay and take German nationality or leave. Many choose to leave; Nancy, now only a few miles from the border, was their obvious destination. Nancy was transformed into the regional capital, the premier city in the French territories of Alsace-Lorraine. The flow of refugees more than doubled the city’s population in four decades; 50,000 inhabitants in 1866 grew to 120,000 in 1911.
This influx of labour and capital transformed the decorative art industries. Many of the refuges were highly skilled workers, previously employed in the glass and ceramics industries located in the Voges mountains. Jean Daum (1825-85), a notary who migrated from Bitche in the Voges, bought the Sainte-Catherine glassworks in Nancy. Taking his sons, Auguste (1853-1909) and Antoine (1864-1930), into partnership the fortunes of the company were turned around with the production of art glass. The Daum brothers were Gallé’s natural successors in the field of decorative glass following his premature death in 1904.
Fierce patriotism led to the use of nationalist motifs: the French cockerel and the Double-cross of Lorraine invariably intertwined with a thistle. The thistle refers to Nancy’s motto, Qui J’y frolle J’y pique (Who I brush against I sting), dating back to Prince Rene II’s great victory over Charles the Bold of Burgundy at the Battle of Nancy in 1477.
Daum, Coupe pour le XIII concours national et international de tir de Nancy, 1906, Daum Collection, Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Daum, Coupe with thistle, enamelled, Daum Collection, Musée des Beaux-Arts
From childhood, Emile Gallé (1846-1904) was schooled to run the family’s glass and ceramics business. His full and varied education encompassed botany and science. Sent to the industrialized Saar Valley, he experienced at first hand the technologies required to manufacture glass and ceramics. In 1866 he arrived at Meisenthal to join the celebrated firm of Burgen, Schwerer and Co. to study glass chemistry. By 1870 he was back home, in Saint-Clement, designing faience tableware decorated with witty sketches of cats, dogs, cocks, hens, or geese. These were a joint venture with the young Victor Prouvé, Gallé’s long-term collaborator.
Gallé, fan, faience ware , enamelled decoration, showing the influence of Japonisme, Musée l’École de Nancy.
Taking over from his father in 1874, Gallé moved away from the production of utilitarian glass to decorative art pieces, which carried a cache both artistically and financially. He revived and invented many techniques: enamelling, hand-carved cameo, acid etched cameo, marqueterie sur verre (glass marquetry),inclusions, applications and intercalaire (internally decorated). He was inspired by Roman, Chinese, Japanese, Islamic and Hispano-Moresque traditions, as well as French Rococo. Special pieces, pièces uniques and vase parlents, were made to commission, for exhibitions, and as gifts. Such labour intensive and expensive pieces were made possible thanks to commercial production using hydrofluoric acid-etching.
Coupe Rose de France or Coupe Simon, 1901. Inscription: Horticultural Society of Nancy, 1877-1901, with affection for the Honorary President Leon Simon, Musée l’École de Nancy.
A range of furniture was introduced c.1889, largely cabinets and stands to display art glass and ceramics, but he was not an interior designer as such.
During the last four years of his life, Gallé experimented with electric lighting, creating flower-form lamps, cameo shades and the remarkable Les Coprins lamp (Mushrooms) in 1904, composed of three giant, phallic mushrooms expressing the ‘Three Ages of Man’. The years between 1884 and 1904 were the most productive, in terms of expansion, experimentation and above all satisfaction, of reaching his goal of expressing his personality through unique designs and superlative craftsmanship.
l’École de Nancy
A consortium of artists, l’École de Nancy, Alliance Provinciale des Industries d’Art, was officially formed in 1901, in the wake of the Paris 1900 Universalle Exposition. However, Gallé, the first president of l’École de Nancy, had been endeavouring to ally art and industry for more than twenty years. Key members include:
Victor Prouvé (1858-1943), painter, sculptor, decorator, and educator, was motivated by William Morris’s commitment to craftwork. His motto, ‘Beauty, Truth, Utility’, was underpinned by an art education based on drawing and the study of nature.
The Daum brothers, Auguste (1853-1909) and Antonine (1864-1930) concentrated on decorative glass, collaborating with stained glass designer Jacques Gruber (1870-1936) and pâte de verre (glass paste) specialist Amalric Walter (1870-1959).
Amalric Walter, crab, pâté de verre (glass paste), Daum Collection, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Louis Majorelle (1859-1926) was the premier furniture maker and metalworker. Majorelle collaborated with both Gallé and Daum.
Louis Majorelle, Nénuphar (Waterlily) table, c. 1901, Musée des Beaux-Arts
l’École de Nancy’s first national success came in March 1903 with a display in the Pavilion Marsan, Palais des Tuileries, Paris. In the same year Majorelle purchased Samuel Bing’s Mason l’ Art Nouveau, on rue de Provence, establishing a showcase in the capital for his furniture and decorative ironwork. l’École de Nancy now had access to national and international markets. l’École de Nancy’s contribution to the Saint Louis World Fair in 1904 was well received, with Majorelle and Daum winning medals. At the end of the year l’École achieved its greatest success, with the exhibition held at the Galeries Poriel, Nancy. With Gallé’s death, Victor Prouve became president of l’École. By 1905 there were close to 2000 workers employed in the so called ‘art industries’. Faced with growing competition from Germany, The Exposition Internationale de L’Est de la France, held from May to November 1909, was a patriotic ‘masterpiece’ that demonstrated ‘taste, invention and luminous French grace’. Attracting 2 million visitors, with temporary pavilions worthy of a World Fair, this marked the triumph of l’École Nancy.
New Nancy: Style Florale
The only architect of national stature to work in Nancy was the Parisian Henri Sauvage, who designed the Villa Majorelle or Villa Jika (1898-1901). This building was to have a profound influence on Nancy’s local architects: Lucien Weissenburger (1860-1929); Eugene Vallin (1856-1922); George Biet (1868-1955); Henri Gutton (1851-1933) and Emil Andre (1871-1933) forged their own distinctive florale architectural style. They blended a variety of sources both historic and modern. Gothic elements, towers and turrets, sit alongside Rococo naturalist motifs. Roof lines were enhanced with a fleuron, a flower-shaped finial or pinnacle. Purely decorative, a fleuron implied the building was organically growing from ‘earth to sky’. With their mansard roofs, some of the large villas recall the splendours of the Chateau of the Loire. Paul Charbonnier’s grandiose house for Paul Jacques (1905-06), avenue Foch, and Léon Cayotte’s Villa Frühinsholz, avenue du Général-Leclerc, exemplify the ambitions of Nancy’s bourgeoise.
Paul Charbonnier’s, Maison Paul Jacques (1905-06), avenue Foch, Nancy
New technologies and new materials, iron, and concrete, were also adopted. Lucien Weissenburger applied rationalist principles for his Jules Royer Printing House (1899), on Rue rue de la Salpêtrière. Constructed from iron, stone, brick and glass, the iron framework is openly exposed. Henri Gutton (1851-1933) and Henry Gutton (1874-1963), uncle and nephew, adopted a similar approach for the Genin-Louis store, on the corner of Rue Saint-Jean and 2 Rue Benit (1900-1901). Built as a seed merchant’s shop, the riveted iron structure becomes both functional and decorative, the framework softened with inter-twinning poppies.
Gutton and Gutton, Genin-Louis store, on the corner of Rue Saint-Jean and 2 Rue Benit (1900-1901).
These commercial buildings did not provide the model for the villas and apartment blocks that were springing up all over the city. These were of traditional brick and stone with decorative metalwork and stained glass. Many were influenced by the Villa Majorelle, especially its picturesque masses and use of polychromatic materials. Loggias or open galleries were widely used, seamlessly integrating the house with the garden. Internally, winter gardens softened and diffused light through ‘Tiffany style’ leaded glass windows, the finest fabricated by Jacques Gruber. Signature curves or coup de fouet (whiplash) were fully expressed externally through wrought and cast-iron balconies, doors and canopies, and internally staircases.
Henri Sauvage, Villa Majorelle or Villa Jika (1898-1901).
Émile Andre’s Huot House (1903), on the Quai Claude Le Lorrain, dominated by its peacock-eye window framed with turquoise tiles, certainly makes a statement. Seen from an incoming train, the façade was not only an advert for Andre’s style florale, it also proclaimed the city’s commitment to modernity. This semi-detached house uses a multiplicity of materials: rocky limestone, cut stone, ceramics, wood, metalwork, and stained glass. Yet the overall effect of the picturesque composition is unity.
Émile Andre, Huot House (1903), on the Quai Claude Le Lorrain.
In 1901 Émile Andre and Henri Gutton were commissioned to layout a ‘garden-suburb’, the Parc de Saurupt, along the lines of London’s Bedford park. Although several remarkable villas were built, the project faltered. By 1906 only six properties had been completed. The plot sizes were reduced to attract more modest clientele, while a section was reserved for terraced housing.
Parc de Saurupt, Emile André, Villa Les glycines for the négociant Charles Fernbach, 1902-1903.
Parc de Saurupt, Émile Andre, Villa Les Roches, 1902, 6, Rue des Brice.
Parc de Saurupt, Lucien Weissenburger, Villa Henri-Emmanuel Lang, 1906-07, 1, Boulevard Clemenceau.
Be prepared to do lots of walking. Travel Editions offers guided tours with Anne and Scott Anderson.
The Musée de l’École deNancy displays outstanding examples of glass by Emile Gallé, furniture by Louis Majorelle and leaded glass windows by Jacques Gruber. The massed display of Daum glass in the Musée des Beaux–Arts is awesome. As a bonus, enjoy a Kir Lorraine, a local aperitif, in the Place Stanislas.
Bank Renauld, 1910, corner of Rue Chanzy and Rue Saint-Jean. Interior by Paul Charbonnier. Metalwork by Majorelle. Glass by Gruber.
Maison Huot, 92-94, Quai Claude-le-Lorrain, 1903
Immeuble, 1902-03, 69, Ave Foch.
Immeuble, 1904, 71, Ave Foch.
Armand Lejeune studio-house, 1903, Rue du Sergent Blandan.
Maison and atelier Weissenburger, 1904, 1 Boulevard Charles V, Cours-Leopold.
Maison Bergeret, 1903-04, 24 Rue Lionnois. Metalwork by Majorelle, Glass by Gruber and Janin and furniture by Vallin.
Villa Eugène Corbin and aquarium, 1904-09, Rue du Sergent Blandan.
Maison Chardot, 1905-07, 52, Cours-Leopold.
Villa Henri-Emmanuel Lang, 1906-07, Parc de Saurupt, 1, Boulevard Clemenceau.
Hotel-Brasserie Excelsior, 1910, Rue Mazagran. With Alexandre Mienville. Interior by Majorelle and Gruber.
Immeuble, 1906, Rue Stanislas.
Georges Biet and Eugène Vallin
Maison Biet, 1901-1902, rebuilt 1922, 22, Rue de la Commanderie. Don’t miss the cat on the roof!
Immeuble Aimé, 1903, 42-44, Rue Saint-Dizier, currently Banque de la Société Générale. Built forDoctor Henri Aimé.
Maison Gaudin, 1899, 97, Rue Charles III, with glass by Jacques Gruber
Eugène Vallin and Paul Charbonnier
Immeuble Charles Margo, 1906, 86, Rue Stanislas.
Henri Gutton and Joseph Hornecker
Maison Geschwindammer, 1905, 6, Ter Quai de la Bataille.
Villa Marguerite, 1904-05, 3, Rue Colonel-Renard:
Parc de Saurupt
Émile Andre, the Keeper’s Lodge, and entry to Parc de Saurupt, 1902, 2 Rue des Brice: Andre
Émile Andre, Villa Les Glycines, 1902, 5, Rue des Brice, built for Fernbach.
Émile Andre,Villa Les Roches, 1902, 6, Rue des Brice, for himself, to rent.
Henri Gutton and Joseph Hornecker, Villa Marguerite, 1904-05, 3, Rue Colonel-Renard.
Lucien Weissenburger,Villa Henri-Emmanuel Lang, 1906-07, 1, Boulevard Clemenceau.
Anne Anderson, Art Nouveau Architecture, Marlborough: Crowood, 2020.
Christian Debize, Émile Gallé and ‘école de Nancy’, Metz: Editions Serpenoise, 1999.
Christian Debize, Guide l’École de Nancy, Nancy: Presses Universitaries de Nancy, 1999.
Alastair Duncan, Louis Majorelle: Master of Art Nouveau, London: Thames and Hudson, 1991.
Philippe Garner, Emile Gallé, London: Academy Editions, 1990.
Noël Daum, Daum: Mastery of Glass from Art Nouveau to Contemporary Crystal, Lausanne: Edita, 1985.
Claude Petry, Daum dans les Musees de Nancy, Maxeville: Jean-Lamour, 1989.