When I came to Paris, there were two major designers that I was anxious to see more of: Louis Marjorelle and Hector Guimard.
Marjorelle is harder to find around Paris, perhaps because he was not an architect, and his factory was outside of Paris. But he did do the balconies and staircase at the Galleries Lafayette, which are flat-out spectacular.
Guimard, on the other hand, is easy to find all over Paris because he designed the famous Metro ironwork. After questioning whether the people at Le Petit Zinc were correct in telling me that the tiled plaque and print there were by Guimard, I discovered there’s a neighborhood in Paris that has a lot of his work, including the home he designed for himself. (Still think the people at Le Petit Zinc are wrong … the architecture is by Guimard, but the plaque looks like a Grasset and the print is definitely a Cheret. There’s no evidence I’ve been able to find that Guimard was a painter. Please correct me if you know otherwise).
Well, off I go to the 16th, very excited. Not sure what it says about me that I was more excited at the prospect of seeing the Guimard work than shopping at the discount shops I hit yesterday (which were closed for the bank holiday, arghhh!). Well, I was in art nouveau heaven. My favorite building, not surprisingly, is the house Guimard built for himself.
The grace! The beauty! The way it undulates seductively but also peacefully. The amazing ironwork. The shape of the windows. Everything is just right. Sometimes art nouveau can be too much, but Guimard does it with such restraint. He manages to delicately balance the natural beauty and curves without overwhelming his structures.
How come people aren’t lined up to see this? It’s so spectacular! It’s so French. I’m miffed that tourists don’t throng here; so wrong. But I’m also happy to have time to admire it by myself. I linger there for a while, and a shop owner comes down the street to talk to me. It’s deserted today, so he must have been bored. He could tell I was really into it, which I guess scores some points in France. I don’t think he was into it, so much, just wanted to chat. He was from Iran and had family in LA. He complimented me on my French; he was definitely too kind!
I’m wishing I had my split neutral density filter (which I lost at Giverny) and a tilt-shift lens to capture these. But you can’t get the filters here, and the tilt-shift lens is huge and costs about $2500, so I’m just going to have to do the best with the camera equipment I have. According to my photography instructor, if you stand way back, it eliminates the tilt effect. Ummm, yeah. That’s not possible at all on most Paris streets.
I hike over to Rue La Fontaine and Rue Agar to see some apartment buildings Guimard designed. There’s one small one, and two huge sets of buildings, one of which is wilder, but still pretty. I love how all the elements in his buildings are not the same. They coordinate, rather than match. The ironwork on the balconies, for example.
Of these buildings essentially on Rue La Fontaine, I like the smaller one the best. I long to go inside every single one of these buildings, but especially the smaller two. When I return to Paris, I need to find a way, perhaps send a note offering to flip them some Euros for a tour. I couldn’t tell if anybody lived in Guimard’s home, but the smaller building on La Fontaine was definitely now a residence or apartment of some sort.
A lovely afternoon in the 16th. If you go, there aren’t a lot of cafes in the area.