La Piscine – The Swimming Pool Gallery

On completion of our morning walking tour of Lille we met our coach and were taken the few miles out of the centre of Lille to the nearby city of Roubaix (twinned with nearby Bradford, West Yorkshire) which is now incorporated into the Lille conurbation.

Original pool entrance

The Original 1932 Art Deco Entrance

La P exterior

The Swimming Pool Museum Entrance Today

In October 2011, Lille’s Musée d’Art et d‘Industrie celebrated its tenth birthday, and a hugely successful decade of existence. Architect Jean-Paul Philippon converted the splendid Art Deco swimming baths into a museum, transforming the former changing rooms and cabins into “curiosity cabinets” overlooking the partly covered former swimming pool. The collections include paintings by Gérome, Fantin-Latour, Dufy and Tamara De Lempicka, and sculpture by François Pompon and Camille Claudel, plus ceramics by Pablo Picasso and an exceptional collection of textile samples and designs. Visitors come here from all over Europe for the acclaimed temporary exhibitions; recent subjects include The Bloomsbury Group, Pierre Loti, sculpture by Degas and the work of Paul Signac” [Adapted from my 2012 LV City Guide Lille, Lyon, Monaco, Toulouse]



B&W swimmers

Original Swimming Displays in the Museum

The main entrance lobby and display don’t prepare you for the museum itself. After the lobby and reception you step through the ‘showers’ and ‘footbaths’ and into the pool proper. There’s still some water but much reduced in size and even on the dull overcast Friday the area was filled with light.

La Piscine

La Piscine

On arrival Mike introduced us to the gallery and to two Art Nouveau stained glass windows on display then left us to our own devices for an hour before meeting us in the picture gallery and talking about several paintings relevant to our themes.

T. Laumonnerie

Théophile Laumonnerie – Memory of Autumn

J Gruber

By Jacques Gruber of Nancy

Young woman on lute

Stylised Art Deco: Part of the Debussy Monument : Young Woman Playing a Lute (1932)

Eric Kennington

Eric Kennington of The New English Art Club: La Cuisine Ambulante (1914)


Sir William Rothenstein’s The Artsist’s Son and his Wife

And I always find time to check out the quirky gifts and buy postcards in the Museum Shop – La Piscine no exception!

Museum shop


Art Deco and Art Nouveau in Lille and Antwerp : Day Two

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

A La Cloche d’Or, rue Saint Nicolas, Lille

43 Rue du Faubourg de Béthune

43 Rue du Faubourg de Béthune, Lille

71 Rue de Béthune

71, rue de Béthune, Lille

Rue Nicolas Leblanc

Rue Nicolas Leblanc

Ceramique Colliot

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 :

AD near hotel

Art Deco near The Hotel Mercure, Lille Centre

Maison Gilbert Lille

Maison Gilbert, Lille

Shoe shop

Former shop or factory?

45 rue de Béthune

Above hat maker, Benjamin, 45, rue de Béthune

Also r de Béthune

Also on the rue de Béthune

rue de Bethune

Another on the rue de Béthune

Place 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.

Art Deco and Art Nouveau in Lille and Antwerp : Day One

Last Thursday I set off from St Pancras Station to Lille along with 23 others booked on a Travel Editions art trip to northern France and Belgium.  The train journey took just less than 1 hour 30minutes.

Lille Town Hall and belfry

Lille Town Hall and Belfry [UNESCO World Heritage listed] from the hotel balcony

Day 1 : Travel by Eurostar from St Pancras to Lille and transfer by coach to hotel for check in for 3 night stay. Afternoon walking tour of central Lille.
Welcome reception lecture “Art nouveau – an Overview” and dinner with wine at the atmospheric Art Nouveau Brasserie de la Paix located 2-3 minutes from the hotel.

Vieille Bourse with Belfry behind

Unfortunately, it was raining hard in Lille so an hour after arrival and check-in with our brollies out we were on our first guided walk with tour guide and lecturer Mike Hope who mixed his vast knowledge with humour, patience and enthusiasm and from whom I learned all I now know about Art Deco and Art Nouveau in Lille (and nearby towns) and Antwerp during the following three days.

La Grand Place in the rain

The Grand Place in the rain

Once the jewel of the Spanish Netherlands, Lille is France’s most besieged city. It was incorporated into the royal domain in 1304 before passing under Burgundian (1369), then Austrian (1477), then Spanish rule under Charles V. The city became French in 1667 and remained so, except for a brief interlude from 1708 to 1713 and the absurd Nazi Aryanization (1940) from which it was delivered by its illustrious native son, a certain Charles de Gaulle. Throughout the 20th century, Lille was the capital of the French textile industry. … The city [has made] an extraordinary transformation that began with the arrival of France’s high-speed train, the TGV. [It] boasts prestigious colleges, abounds with café terraces and brasseries. Since 2004, when Lille was European City of Culture, it has stood at the forefront of the French cultural scene.” [From my LV Guide Lille, Lyon, Monaco, Toulouse 2012]

From the hotel we were just steps away from the main square and the important civic buildings – the town hall, the old bourse (now a secondhand book market), the opera and theatre – and shopping and business areas.

Vielle Bourse

V Bourse

VB Detail

VB Drainpipe

In the Vieille Bourse

Theatre du Nord

The Voix du Nord Building: Mike points out the architectural features

Paul, Lille

Art Deco Bakery on the rue Lepelletier – still a bakery shop


A L’Huitriere

A L'Huitriere

A L’Huîtriere, rue des Chats Bossus. Renowned fishmonger and restaurant with pure Art Deco decor inside and out.

ND de la Treille

The Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Treille : building began in 1854 and was finally finished in time for Lille’s European City of Culture year 2004

West Window

The West Window from Inside

… and other Art Deco and Art Nouveau façades in Lille :

Others 1

Others 2

Others 3

Others 4

And the best place to finish is at Méert famous for its butter and vanilla waffles