Sign up


Hector Guimard or Hector-Germain Guimard (French: Hector-Germain Guimard; March 10, 1867, Lyon, France - May 20, 1942, New York, USA) - architect, decorator, furniture designer, perhaps the most famous French representative of the art nouveau.

Features of the work of Hector Guimard. His works relate to various types of art - from painting and sculpture to graphics and even typography. The comprehensive harmony and smoothness prevailing in the aesthetics of his buildings and other works reflect in many respects the pacified environment and society that he dreamed about. Despite the fact that the version of Art Nouveau Guimard became national - French - it was focused on the social and benevolent recognition of the differences between different nationalities and ethnic groups of the world. Today Guimard is considered one of the individualistic creators of his era, one of the innovators of Art Nouveau, who developed his own aesthetics, which is often recognizable even among the works of his colleagues in style.

Famous buildings of Hector Guimard. Castell (Castle) Beranger, Paris subway entrances, Humbert Romansky Concert Hall, Pave street synagogue.

Early years and study

Hector-Germain Guimard was born in Lyon in the family of an orthopedist and seamstress. He developed a difficult relationship with his parents: after the family moved from Lyon to the outskirts of Paris, a 13-year-old teenager fled home. He took refuge in the house of a relative of Apollonia Grivel, a wealthy landowner.

At the age of 15, Guimard entered the Higher School of Decorative Arts in Paris. There he showed himself to be a skilled craftsman: in 1884 his projects were awarded two silver and three bronze medals. In subsequent competitions, he won four bronze medals, five silver and the most prestigious school award - Grand Prix d'Architecture.

Guimard then entered the architecture department of the National School of Fine Arts, where in the 1880s there were more students from the United States, Central and Eastern Europe. The competition there was higher than at the School of Decorative Arts, and the young man’s talent shone less brightly against this background. However, Guimard made friends with many of his comrades, including Henri Sauvage. Together they became pioneers of the Art Nouveau style in France in the 1890s.

Carier start

Guimard began his independent career in 1888 with a small cafe project with an open-air stage on the Otoy quay in his native 16th arrondissement of Paris. A year later, he received the task of building the Ferdinand de Boyer electrotherapy pavilion at the World Exhibition in Paris.

Guimard also made money by teaching. In 1891, he became a professor of drawing at the girls' department at his alma mater, the School of Decorative Arts. He remained a teacher there until 1900, when his career reached a new level. Despite the fact that the master taught mainly women, for the next 15 years he remained a bachelor.

In the early 1890s Guimard's career began to gain momentum, as the 16th district quickly turned into a fashionable suburb. The developers and landowners, who realized its potential, asked the architect to design several mansions and apartment buildings. As a native of the area, Guimard knew him well and understood what customers wanted. These orders actually marked the beginning of his career.

In 1895, the architect went to Brussels, where he met his colleague Viktor Orta, who expressed sincere admiration in the subsequent correspondence. Guimard was very excited about the visit to Hotel Tassel (the mansion of Professor Emil Tassel), built two years earlier and often considered the first Art Nouveau building. Like Guimard, Horta viewed nature as a source of inspiration for modern architecture. He told a colleague that, looking at the plant, he prefers to cut the flower and focus on the stem, as the basis of the structure.

Art Nouveau Development

Hector Guimard was a member of high bourgeois and aristocratic circles, where he met the rich widow Anna-Elizabeth Fournier. She ordered the architect to build a profitable residential building on the street de la Fontaine, which soon became known as Castel Beranger. After returning from Belgium, the enthusiastic Guimard convinced Fournier to let him design the building in the Art Nouveau style. The customer gave the architect carte blanche for the job, and he did not disappoint. Guimard himself moved to one of the apartments in this house and moved his studio there. One of his neighbors and a friend was an artist Paul Signac.

Guimara was supported by a relatively small group of creatively adventurous, loyal customers who provided him with the opportunity to develop his vision. For example, for the Nosal family, an architect built not only a house in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, but also art workshops, a country house in Normandy, as well as new steel and ceramic factories in northern Paris.

The most productive years for Guimard were 1895 - 1905. It was during this period that his most famous works were created. He designed and built schools, tombstones, apartment buildings, town houses, vacation homes and country villas, a concert hall, stations, ceramic factories, artists' workshops and exhibition halls. During this decade, Art Nouveau reached the climax of its popularity in Paris, and then began to go out of fashion.

In 1909, Guimard married American artist Adeline Oppenheim, who studied in France. His wedding gift was a newGuimard's mansion on Mozart Avenue. The building has survived to this day, although the interiors no longer convey the fullness of Guimard's design decisions, especially in the furniture that the couple took with them when they moved to the United States. In the late 1940s, Madame Guimard gave Paris a dining room and interior walls from the house, which are exhibited today in the Small Palace.

Late period

After 1909, the number of orders from Guimard fell sharply. This was primarily due to the decline in popularity of Art Nouveau. In France, the style was often called "imported" from Belgium or Germany, despite the fact that at the dawn of the century it was supposed to be taken as the basis of the French "national style". Guimard's complex character probably also contributed to a decrease in the number of his clients (and perhaps was one of the reasons he did not have loyal followers). And the architect, obviously, did not consider it necessary to look for a constant stream of orders, since his wife was rich enough.

During the First World War, when construction was almost stopped, Guimard left Paris far from military operations. The period between the two world wars was marked by the appearance of the Art Deco style, which was named after the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts and Industry in 1925 in Paris. The last completed Guimard project dates back to 1930. The architect maintained a strong relationship with a small circle of friends and delivered a speech at the funeral of Henri Sauvage in 1932.

Guimard Adeline’s wife was Jewish. With an eye on the growing Nazi threat in the late 1930s and German antipathy towards contemporary art, the couple decided to immigrate to New York in 1938. Hector died there four years later.


After World War II, Adeline, who survived Hector for 23 years, returned to France. She tried to persuade local officials to create a Guimard museum, but did not get consent. The woman donated the remaining furniture to museums in Paris and Lyon, and her husband’s preserved drawings, correspondence, and other archival materials to the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the New York Public Library.

Guimard’s decision to work in one particular style only helped him for a short period. By the end of World War II, he was almost forgotten. Some of its most difficult entrances to the Paris Metro were destroyed long before the war, but after it their dismantling became more intensive due to the accelerating modernization of the subway and changing tastes in favor of the international style. The most notable loss was the demolition in 1962 of the carefully thought-out “Chinese Pavilion” at the Bastille station.

Guimard buildings were built taking into account the tastes of its customers. When they changed hands, many new owners transformed them as they saw fit - often beyond recognition. Some of Guimard's private mansions in the always fashionable 16th arrondissement were demolished to make way for modern apartment buildings. Few people remembered the architect in 1967, when he turned one hundred years from the date of his birth.

However, several museum exhibitions in Europe and North America in the 1970s began to revive the reputation of Guimard and many of his associates in Art Nouveau. The movement to preserve the works of the master started, and in 1992, to the 125th anniversary of the architect’s birth, the Orsay Museum dedicated a major exhibition to his work. The year 2000 was marked by an avalanche of publications dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the 1900 World's Fair in Paris and the Art Nouveau style.

Many Guimard buildings - including 88 preserved entrances to the Paris Metro (it is assumed that there were 167 in 1913) - are now listed as historical monuments. Since 1984, the street in the 19th arrondissement of Paris has been named after Hector Guimard. His legacy is promoted by an online community called Le Cercle Guimard, made up of Art Nouveau fans.

Author: Vlad Maslov


All exhibitions of the artist
Whole feed
View 16 artworks by the artist