Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
History of Art
David B. Brownlee
The small city of Nancy, France, is arguably the center where Art Nouveau architecture had the most lasting impact. Nancy’s Art Nouveau was a divergent form of modernity that was defined by regionalism and a distinct sense of place, which its proponents championed as the key elements of an authentic architecture, allowing Nancy to challenge Paris as the dominant French artistic center in the two decades before World War I.
Most of Nancy’s architects were graduates of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and grounded in the language of classicism and its associated professional standards. Much of Nancy’s Art Nouveau had a conservative character that garnered praise from the national architectural press. Nancy’s architects were also disciples of Emile Gallé, the founder of a regional association of artists, industrialists, and designers called the Ecole de Nancy, dedicated to the promotion of Art Nouveau. Nancy’s architects freely collaborated with other artists of the Ecole on their buildings, and a sense of pride in their province led them to study local flora, the and regional legends and politics, using the iconography of plants and narratives to make architecture legible to a wide public.
The rooting of the work of Nancy’s architects in their region and the alliance they formed with local industry were successes that Parisian Art Nouveau architects were never able to match. Consequently, in Paris, Art Nouveau was quickly discarded, while in Nancy it was celebrated as an integral piece of regional identity and an important national achievement until 1914.
Clericuzio, Peter, "Nancy as a Center of Art Nouveau Architecture, 1895-1914" (2011). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 451.