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Hector Guimard

French Architect and Designer

Hector Guimard Photo
Movements and Styles: Art Nouveau, Modern Architecture

Born: 10 March 1867 - Lyons, France

Died: 20 May 1942 - New York, New York, USA

"I love architecture, because in its essence, in its structure, in its function, and in all of its manifestations, it contains within itself every one of the other arts, without exception."

Summary of Hector Guimard

Hector Guimard practiced what he preached. His architectural creations tend to embrace each of the different branches of the arts, from painting and sculpture to graphics and even typography. The seamless harmony and flow that reigns in the aesthetic of Guimard's buildings and other works very much mirrors the kind of harmonious environment and society that Guimard hoped the world could eventually achieve politically, though this never came to pass. Guimard's version of Art Nouveau was nationalistic (he was French), but also focused on community and the friendly acknowledgement of differences between the varied nationalities and ethnicities of the world. Today Guimard is regarded as one of the most individualistic artists of his era, one of the innovating founders of Art Nouveau who developed a personal aesthetic that is often instantly recognizable and distinguishable even from his fellow practitioners of the style.

Key Ideas

Guimard is by far the best-known French Art Nouveau architect, to the extent that in some French circles Art Nouveau was referred to as "Style Guimard," a moniker promoted by Guimard himself. His work is easy to distinguish amongst other practitioners of the style, with plastic, abstracted and sometimes bizarre vegetal and floral imagery in iron, glass, and carved stone that is usually twisted and bent into irregular and asymmetrical forms.
Though well-educated at the École nationale des arts décoratifs, and familiar with many of the leading French architectural theorists, Guimard attended but did not receive a diploma from the École des Beaux-Arts as was the norm for most French academic architects at the end of the 19th century, and was often thought of during his lifetime as outside the mainstream of architectural practice.
Guimard's work has recently been discovered to be rather political - particularly pacifist and socialist. The strange forms in his architecture are intended to function as great kinds of social levelers, favoring no social or economic class above any other in terms of their familiarity or ability to be interpreted. As a result, they also constitute a step towards artistic abstraction, one of the great developments of 20th-century modernism.
Guimard's Paris Métro entrances are his signature work and classic emblems of Art Nouveau, which combine the movement's embrace of nature as well as the advances of technology, standardization, and modernization. Their sinuous, unusual forms stand out against the typical street environments, making them ideal for their functions, and they have become worldwide icons for mass transit design.
Hector Guimard Photo

Hector-Germain Guimard was born in Lyons in March 1867. He was the first of several major architects to be born that year, two months before Frank Lloyd Wright, four months before Henry Hornbostel, and nine before Josef Maria Olbrich. His father was an orthopedist originally from Toucy, while his mother was a seamstress from Larajasse. Guimard developed a difficult relationship with his parents: at age thirteen the family moved from Lyons to Levallois-Perret, just outside the northwestern city limits of Paris, and soon afterward Guimard apparently ran away from home, finding refuge in the home of Apollonie Grivellé, a rich landowner in the suburban 16th arrondissement of Paris.

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