Friday, 23 August 2013

Nancy art nouveau 2

 Museum of the School of Nancy

The centrepiece of our second art nouveau walk in Nancy was the Museum of the School of Nancy. This unprepossessing building of 1911-2, built for the retailer Eugène Corbin by Lucien Weissenberger, doesn't even appear to be art nouveau from the outside, but it houses a remarkable collection of art nouveau inside.

Initially, we followed a direct route to Avenue Foch and then took rue de la Commanderie to find a building we missed on our first art nouveau walk: the splendid Biet Building of 1901-2 (George Biet and Eugene Vallin). The elaborate galleries and the ironwork flowers on the fence and gate were especially striking.

A passer-by told us to look up at the roof where we would see a cat ...

At the end of rue de la Commanderie we turned left into rue Jeanne d'Arc and noticed Dr Jacques's house of 1905 (we had passed his nearby pharmacy on our first art nouveau walk). This was another house whose art nouveau character was only really apparent in certain details: in this case foliage carving above the dormer windows. The architect was Paul Charbonnier.

In the adjacent Place de la Croix de Bourgogne we saw a fine monument to the Battle of Nancy in 1477, where Duke Rene II of Lorraine defeated Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. Charles died on the battlefield and his line died with him, Burgundy then becoming part of France.

This was a major event in the history of Lorraine too and we had already seen some reminders of it. In the Beaux Arts there is a painting of Charles's naked body being discovered on the battlefield, and in the Grand Rue there is a stone plaque identifying the house where a vigil was kept over the body before it was buried. And on Wednesday's art nouveau walk we saw the tower Rene used as his headquarters during the battle. I can't however discover anything about the monument.

Returning now to out art nouveau mission, we soon reached the Museum. The audioguide helpfully explains that although it is based in Corbin's house, it is not a recreation of how it was in 1912, but a place to show a whole collection of art nouveau artifacts. Many are original features of the house however. There is a lot of glassware by Emile Gallé and not very good paintings by Victor Prouvé. We especially liked the stained glass, by Jacques Gruber ...

 ... and the Dawn and Dusk bed by the glass maker Emile Gallé.

In the garden there is a delightful building that looks like a summer house, but was apparently an aquarium. It is the also the work of Lucien Weissenberger.

We continued along rue de Sargent-Blandan and turned right into Felix Faure to see the houses built by Cesar Pain between 1900 and 1910. This group is easily the most attractive - and most photographed.

Now we retraced our steps past the open air swimming pool and inti the Parc Ste-Marie to reach rue Pasteur. The Biet house at number 41 (also by Biet and Vallin) looks fairly conventional, but then yoi notice the extraordinary asymmetrical arch over the front door.

A bit further on we found Dr Hoche's house in rue Emile Galle (1906-7, by George Biet). The windows were similar to those in the Biet house, but the distinctive feature was the tall projections on the roof.

Round the corner in Boulevard Jean Jaures we passed Emile Galle's glass factory. A very handsome industrial building.

At the end of Jean Jaures is the Parc de Saurupt, conceived as a garden estate by Jules Villard and protected by a gatehouse. Only seven of the planned hundred buildings were completed and when finished the development had more terraced houses than envisaged and no gates. There are one or two gems. Villa Lang is another work by Lucien Weissenberger and this one seems to owe more to his native Alsace.

The star though is Villa les Glycines by the trusty Emile André, with the vast ground floor window reaching up to divide the first floor window in two.

We took the excellent tram back to Place Stanislas for a mere 1.30 euros.

Conditions: warm and sunny again. Distance: about 3 miles. Source:  Nancy Tourist Office or its website. Rating: four stars.

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