“Day 2 : Morning walking tour of the Art Nouveau houses of Lille, including the exterior of the beautiful Maison Coilliot, followed by the hidden gem that is La Piscine Museum at the former textile town of Roubaix. Afternoon tour to Tournai and its Musée des Beaux Arts. Lecture “Art Nouveau and Belgium” followed by dinner at the Brasserie de la Paix.”
… so, another full day.
Our second day dawned overcast but brightened up considerably as we began our walk through the streets of Lille. Ignore the shop fronts and look up and a whole new world appears. Interspersed between plain dull shop fronts and ordinary apartment exteriors are a multitude of different, often colourful, Art Nouveau and Art Deco façades.
Here are some of the style features of Art Nouveau which developed during the 1890s and continued until the outbreak of the First World War :
- sinuous, elongated, curvy lines
- the whiplash line*
- vertical lines and height
- stylised flowers, leaves, roots, buds and seedpods
* Definition of the whiplash line from the V&A website : ‘This is a decorative line that seems to have a life of its own. It writhes and coils with dynamic force, as if trying to break free of the forces holding it in place. It is everywhere in the early Art Nouveau works. Architectural ironwork, decorative borders, textile patterns and the flowing hair of the poster girls all seethe with an excess of feverish energy. The whiplash form can be seen as a metaphor. It displays in graphic form the radical drive to break away from the constraints of tradition.’
In the UK we have Charles Rennie Macintosh and in France Hector Guimard and in Belgium Victor Horta. In Lille the buildings are tall and thin and squeezed in between other buildings.
Another architectural feature are the ‘peacocks’ eyes’. At first I thought I had never been near enough to a peacock to look at its eyes but soon realised that the eyes are in the peacock’s tail feathers.
Spot the eyes and lines and stylised flowers and roots and leaves in this small sample of buildings above the shopping streets of Lille.
A La Cloche d’Or, rue Saint Nicolas, Lille
43 Rue du Faubourg de Béthune, Lille
71, rue de Béthune, Lille
Rue Nicolas Leblanc
Maison Ceramique Coilliot by Hector Guimard
Art Deco of the 1920s on the other hand is characterised by clean lines and strong curves and by
- geometric and angular shapes
- chrome, glass, mirrors and mirror tiles
- stylised images of aeroplanes, cars, cruise liners, skyscrapers
- nature motifs – shells, sunrises, flowers
- theatrical contrasts – highly polished wood and glossy black lacquer
The fonts or typescripts are sans serif – no added curlicues or decoration.
Spot the art deco style features and sans serif scripts on the buildings on our morning walk in Lille :
Art Deco near The Hotel Mercure, Lille Centre
Maison Gilbert, Lille
Former shop or factory?
Above hat maker, Benjamin, 45, rue de Béthune
Also on the rue de Béthune
Another on the rue de Béthune
At the Place de Béthune
After the Maison Ceramique Coilliot by Hector Guimard we joined our coach for the next stages of the day’s tour.
Marvellous buildings. I’ve only passed through Lille on the Eurostar so clearly missed out on some good architecture
I had only changed trains there a couple of years ago. It is well worth a visit – lots of art and architecture and history and just a hop skip and jump from St Pancras.
Another one for the list!
Nancy, in Lorraine, is also well known for Art Nouveau buildings
Yes, Nancy is in the Travel Editions programme and my companion had visited last year and was the reason for suggesting the Lille trip.
Even more surprising than Day One! And amazing survivors of two World Wars.
Yes, isn’t it surprising?
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