Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Art Nouveau Nancy

As mentioned, the main bit of sightseeing we got up to in Nancy was a visit to the Musée de l'Ecole de Nancy, dedicated to the history of Art Nouveau in Nancy. Art Nouveau's not something I was particularly knowledgeable about. It developed in the late 19th-early 20th centuries, emerging (if I'm reading my sources correctly) pretty much in parallel in different countries around the world. In France, the Ecole de Nancy came after that of Paris, but was particularly innovative and influential, and Nancy can be considered the Art Nouveau capital of France.

Art Nouveau is characterised particularly by its use of fluid, natural forms, drawing inspiration from the natural world and incorporating elements inspired by plants, insects and animals. This helps to distinguish it from the more angular, geometric Art Deco which followed.

Another important element of Art Nouveau was the idea of "total" art, i.e. utilising a range of media from architecture to graphic design to ceramics to cabinet-making, rather than restricting the concept of "art" to painting or sculpture. The museum emphasised the idea that these pieces were originally intended as affordable art: mass-produced prints and glassware, etc., allowing even the most utilitarian object to be a work of art. It's a hard concept to get your head around these days, as certainly the museum pieces do not look anything like what we would imagine as cheap, mass-produced goods in any era. I imagine your Victorian factory workers were not coming home and putting their feet up in an Art Nouveau armchair, but perhaps these pieces were more in the range of a middle-class family than objets d'art would have been in previous centuries.

The museum is laid out in the home of the collector Eugène Corbin (although the collections and arrangement do not necessarily reflect what he would have had in his lifetime). I think it was a really good idea to use the home-style layout rather than a more typical museum look. It really helped to emphasise the ideas of "total" art, as you could see idealised versions of Art Nouveau bedrooms, dining rooms, etc. Even most of the cabinets used to display pieces of glassware and other decorative objects were mostly works of art in themselves.

I was probably largely indifferent to Art Nouveau before visiting the museum: sure, I thought it was pretty, from what I'd seen of it, but I wouldn't have called myself a fan. I probably still wouldn't go as far as that - my tastes for modern art lean more towards the abstract and geometric - but visiting the museum definitely gave me a greater appreciation for the movement. I kept thinking that my mum would love it too - she always enjoys decorative arts and design, such as the museum we visited in Oslo.

Pretty Art Nouveau building in Nancy. We couldn't find a park near the museum, which was lucky since it meant we stumbled across a beautiful street of Art Nouveau houses

My favourite room in the museum

Swanky bed

A more simplistic side of Art Nouveau

I loved how upstairs they displayed some glassware in window boxes. I've never seen this before, but it's a great idea!

Jules liked the wooden room too

A souvenir of the 1915-1916 school year from the city of Nancy. One would think it would be pretty etched in your memory regardless

Some pretty stained glass

Nature-inspired vase against the backdrop of the museum gardens
Other than that, I'm tired and stressed trying to work out the move. For some reason, all the quotes I'm getting from movers are way over budget and under-delivering on services, even though they are all meant to have agreed on fixed price limits with my new workplace. I know, I know, first world problems blah blah blah, but it really does cost a horrific amount of money to move and I feel like I'm banging my head against the wall trying to get it to budget at the moment.

My train home yesterday was delayed by half an hour, and on Thursday it was delayed *two hours*. So not fun. I'm really counting the days (not too fast though, because everything isn't organised yet) till I'm outta here - the upcoming trip to Majorca should help!


  1. What a lovely museum! The window-box displays are a great idea. xx

    1. They really are, I wonder if they were an original design feature of the house or if it was the museum's idea.


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