Door Handle
c. 1909-12
Hector Guimard

Gilded bronze
5½ x 1⅞ x 1⅞"

Hector Guimard (1867–1942) was a French architect and designer, and a prominent figure of the Art Nouveau style. He achieved early fame with his design for the Castel Beranger, the first Art Nouveau apartment building in Paris, which was selected in an 1899 competition as one of the best new building facades in the city. He is best known for the glass and iron edicules or canopies, with ornamental Art Nouveau curves, which he designed to cover the entrances of the first stations of the Paris Metro.

Between 1890 and 1930, Guimard designed and built some fifty buildings, in addition to one hundred and forty-one subway entrances for Paris Metro, as well as numerous pieces of furniture and other decorative works. However, in the 1910s Art Nouveau went out of fashion and by the 1960s most of his works had been demolished, and only two of his original Metro edicules were still in place. Guimard's critical reputation revived in the 1960s, in part due to subsequent acquisitions of his work by Museum of Modern Art, and art historians have noted the originality and importance of his architectural and decorative works.

Much of the success of Guimard came from the small details of his designs, from door handles and balcony railings to type faces, which he crafted with special imagination and care. He invented his own style of lettering which appeared on his Metro entrances and his building plans. He insisted on calling his work "Style Guimard,” not Art Nouveau, and he was genius at publicizing it. He wrote numerous articles and gave interviews and lectures on his work, and printed a set of "Style Guimard" postcards with his pictures of his buildings.

His stylistic vocabulary has suggestions to plants and organic matter and has been described as a form of "abstract naturalism.” Undulating and coagulating forms are found in every material from stone, wood, cast iron, glass, fabric, paper, wrought iron, and ceramic; Guimard compared it analogously to the flowing of sap running from a tree, referring to the liquid quality found in his work as the "sap of things.” —Wikipedia

(Photo: MoMA)