Art Nouveau Revival 1900 . 1933 . 1966 . 1974


It was the slightly gamy residue of the super-elegant and exotic pictures of Aubrey Beardsley. I have always considered the 1900 period as the psycho-analytical end-product of the Greco-Roman Decadence. I said to myself: Since these people will not hear of aesthetics and are capable of becoming excited only over “vital agitations”, I shall show them how in the tiniest ornamental detail of an object of 1900 there is more mystery, more poetry, more eroticism, more madness, perversity, torment, pathos, grandeur and biological depth than in their innumerable stock of ugly fetishes, possessing bodies and souls of a stupidity that is simply and uniquely savage!

Salvador Dalí, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí (1942).

More from Paris, whereupon it becomes necessary to ask: how much more groovy could this poster be? And the answer is none. None more groovy. Art Nouveau Revival 1900 • 1933 • 1966 • 1974 is an exhibition running at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, which traces the echoes of Art Nouveau through Surrealism into the revival of the 1960s.


Poster by Albert Angus Turbayne for Macmillan’s illustrated Standard Novels (1903).

Rejected and scorned in the decades following its brief flowering, Art Nouveau was spectacularly rehabilitated in the 1960s. This re-evaluation offers a particularly interesting interlude in the history of style in that many different areas were affected at the same time by this phenomenon: the history of art, the art market, contemporary creative work, particularly design and graphics.

There’s further detail here, along with photos of some of the exhibits. Verner Panton’s Visiona II makes another appearance and in addition to Dalí and company there’s the magic word “psychedelic”. The exhibition runs until February 4, 2010, and there’s a catalogue co-written by the V&A’s fin de siècle expert Stephen Calloway which I’m going to have to buy. Via.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Beardsley at the V&A
Michael English, 1941–2009
Temples for Future Religions by François Garas
Antonin Mercié’s David
Art Nouveau illustration
Dirty Dalí
Verner Panton’s Visiona II
Flowers of Love

Temples for Future Religions by François Garas


Temple à la Pensée, dédié à Beethoven, vue en cours de construction (1897).

Another artist discovered whilst searching for something quite unrelated. The Musée d’Orsay are custodians of this drawing by François Garas (1866–1925), and they also have the most substantial appraisal of his career.

François Garas remains a mysterious architect, whose artistic pantheon included Baudelaire and Edgar Allan Poe, as well as John Ruskin, Richard Wagner, Jean Carriès and Edouard Manet. He obtained his diploma in 1894, and until 1914 regularly exhibited utopian architectural projects at the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux Arts. His career started with the exhibition Architects’ Impressions in 1896 at the Le Barc de Bouteville gallery, alongside his fellow architects Henri Sauvage, Henry Provensal and Gabriel Guillemonat. This exhibition, accompanied by a rebellious booklet by the architect Frantz Jourdain, wanted to get rid of “the mental slavery produced by the exclusive study of Greek and Roman architecture, and by a knowledge of nothing but the Italian Renaissance”. This drawing featured in the exhibition; then it was seen again, the same year, in an exhibition by the Société Nationale des Beaux Arts, as part of a collection entitled Artists’ Interiors.

From 1897, Garas exhibited increasingly oneiric projects at the Salon – “temples for future religions”, dedicated to Beethoven, Wagner, Life, Death and Thought. While his companions from the early days were designing social housing, Garas continued along the same fanciful path, then disappeared from the architectural scene without any of his projects ever having been built.


Temple à la Pensée, dédié à Beethoven, vue perspective depuis l’arrière du temple (1897).


Temple à la Pensée, dédié à Beethoven, visions du temple, clair de lune (1900).

The museum has several pages of various plans and sketches for these Temples for Future Religions, and also some quasi-Gothic designs for “Artist’s interiors” which would benefit from being seen at a larger size. Among his other works are a series of very diffuse pastel studies which look more like Claude Monet drawing the ruins of Angkor than architectural designs.


Un temple pour les religions futures (1901).

Previously on { feuilleton }
Exposition Universelle publications
Exposition cornucopia
Return to the Exposition Universelle
The Palais Lumineux
Louis Bonnier’s exposition dreams
Exposition Universelle, 1900
The Palais du Trocadéro
The Evanescent City

Antonin Mercié’s David


David (c.1872).

I’d marked out this statue as a suitable addition to the burgeoning men with swords archive some time ago but it took the discovery of a piece of writing to prompt this post. Antonin Mercié’s statue of David resides today in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, but I managed to miss it on my visit there. Judging by the photos it’s situated at the end of the main hall near Rodin’s enormous Gates of Hell, and it was the Rodin which claimed my attention that day. It’s also the case that the D’Orsay hall (formerly a railway station) is such a cavernous space that free-standing works such as this lose their impact, they’d look far better in smaller rooms.

At the late 1870s, Antonin Mercié incarnated the young generation of French sculptors who, without breaking away from the traditional canons, wanted to make their figures more vibrant. He sought to combine the skilled composition and lively modelling seen in the great models of the Florentine Renaissance: hence the sweeping curves of the arm extended by the movement of the sword, the bent knee, and the graceful movement of this David. A spectator walking round it can appreciate the way the planes gradually modulate the space. Mercié carved himself an original path between modern classicism and explicit realism. (More.)


You tend to find with many nude sculptures of the 19th century that the original is the naked one while the copies have gained additional items of clothing. This is the case with Mercié’s David whose replicas like the one above from the University of Copenhagen has a wrap around his waist. It’s the nude condition of the Paris statue that lends a frisson to a piece of writing by French author Patrick Drevet which may be fiction or may be reportage. An Angel at Orsay describes an elaborate game of homoerotic voyeurism as the narrator wanders through the museum and stops by Mercié’s David when he spots a student boy sketching the statue. Drevet’s piece is a sustained reverie inspired by his act of studying the student who studies the statue in turn and then becomes engaged by another student boy, the latter deliberately placing himself on view gazing at the statue and hoping (so the narrator surmises) to be sketched himself. A meagre précis like this fails to do Drevet’s piece any justice, it really needs to be read in its entirety. I found it in the Penguin Book of International Gay Writing (1995), and it may well be available in a collection of the author’s work. It’s certainly enough to make me want to read more of Drevet’s writing.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The men with swords archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Behold the (naked) man

Angels 2: The angels of Paris

Los Angeles, despite being the City of Angels, has few angels on display outside its cemeteries, whereas European cities are full of them. These are some of the ones that caught my attention in Paris this year.


Saint Michael (1860) by Francisque-Joseph Duret in the Place Saint-Michel.


More statues of Saint Michael. The one on the left is by Emmanuel Frémiet (1897), in the Musée D’Orsay. On the right is a detail from the roof of the Sacre Coeur.

Continue reading “Angels 2: The angels of Paris”