Cooper Hewitt says...

Art Nouveau architect and designer Hector Guimard was born in Lyon on March 10, 1867, and died in New York on May 20, 1942. He attended the École Nationale des Arts Décoratifs in Paris from 1882-85, and later studied architecture at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts. As a follower of the French rationalist theorist Viollet-le-Duc, Guimard sought to create a new style appropriate for an era that was looking to expand the uses of cast iron. He drew design inspiration from the natural world and identified three principles inherent in nature, namely logic, harmony, and sentiment that became the basis of his “Style Guimard.”

A savvy promotor of his style, Guimard’s approach was one of design totality, and his buildings’ interior spaces, decorations, and furnishings corresponded to their exterior appearance and structure. He presided over the design and production of even the smallest details in his buildings, including door and window hardware, floor and wall coverings, ceiling ornaments, lighting fixtures, fireplaces, and furniture. Guimard’s Castel Béranger (1895-98), which made him famous, exemplifies his total design approach and reflects the strong influences of Victor Horta’s Tassel House in Brussels (1893-94). Guimard designed all the ironwork in the Castel Béranger and his numerous other structures, which his longtime collaborators at the Fondaries de Saint-Dizier produced. He exploited cast iron’s moldability and created curved and plastic forms that resembled abstractions of configurations found in nature. One of his most important commissions, for the entrances to the Paris Métro (1900-1904), reflected his longstanding interest in pre-fabricated cast-iron elements that combined modular, standardized pieces. In 1907, he published a catalogue in conjunction with the Fondaries de Saint-Dizier of pre-made, ornamental cast-iron elements (for buildings, fireplace fittings, garden fixtures, and tombs) that he hoped would be mass-produced.

Guimard built his own home in Paris in 1909, the Hôtel Guimard, and while he had enjoyed success designing private residences in and around Paris, his career slowed considerably after World War I. Fearing the coming war and concerned about anti-Semitism (his wife was Jewish), he moved to New York in 1938, where he died in 1942.