Monday, September 15, 2008

Art Nouveau Cabinet by Hector Guimard

Hector Guimard's honey hued Art Nouveau cabinet is hand crafted in Pear and Ash. 2 of the 4 cabinet doors feature large planes of mirrored glass, which are set into curvilinear frames carved with "whiplash lines" characteristic of Art Nouveau's whimsical aesthetic. Guimard's omission of legs gives this piece a firm base from which it appears to have grown into an organic succession of drawers and cabinets connected by delicate tendrils. The hardware consists of understated metal drawer pulls and a bureau surface has been conveniently built in at waist height to allow for the display of small items. Guimard designed this piece in 1899 after visiting Victor Horta, who founded Art Nouveau's creative aesthetic as a concerted deviation from the Beaux-Arts aesthetic, which dominated much of European interior furnishings at the time. Guimard was taken with Horta's use of line and form, which he emulated back in Paris. It's in this way that Art Nouveau traveled from Belgium to France.
Sources include: The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts website Massey, Anne (1990). Interior Design of the 20th Century. London: Thames and Hudson.

Similar piece:
Designed and built just five years apart, Guimard's cabinet and Mackintosh's wash table both represent the concerted exploration of new styles in a time when Revivalism and the Beaux-Art aesthetics were prevalent across Europe and The United States.  Mackintosh's Cabinet brings together the geometry of Celtic art, the simplicity of line characteristic of the Arts and Crafts movement, and the colorful stained glass/tile work celebrated in Art Nouveau.  Both pieces clearly represent skilled workmanship and are excellent examples of furnishing that is intended to be integrated into a carefully designed environment.   Guimard and Mackintosh's attention to detail and efforts to bring people closer to art and natural beauty through new design was admirable and refreshing.  

Contrasting piece:
Dessoir's Etagere cabinet is a good example of what Guimard and the Art Nouveau movement were steering away from.  Although both cabinets are skillfully crafted in wood featuring delicate hand carvings, the Etagere cabinet is rooted in the Rococco revival style associated with aristocratic opulence and nostalgia for a "grander" period, which refuses to celebrate the spirit of nature that Guimard was attempting to embrace.  Symmetry, clawed feet and a light base give Dessoir's cabinet a floating, contrived appearance, while Guimard's cabinet is built on a rooted, stable base that supports an asymmetrical organic look.  

No comments: