Hugnet Frères, French, Fireplace surround, 1900, Walnut, ceramic tiles, and copper.; 349.8 cm (137 11/16 inches) (height), Helen M. Danforth Acquisition Fund, Mary B. Jackson Fund and Georgianna Sayles Aldrich Fund 83.152
This fireplace surround in the Art Nouveau (New Art) style was the central element of an interior by the Parisian design firm Hugnet Frères and was created for a villa near fashionable Le Tréport on France’s Normandy coast. Art Nouveau made a striking alternative to the Victorian preference for designs based on exoticism or historical tradition. In Paris, wealthy clients turned to the new style for fashion’s sake, rather than for reformist rhetoric, hailing it as a spiritual advance. Luxuriant lines and wistful imagery typify Art Nouveau and are evident in the willowy figures’ flowing hair and dreamy repose and in the scrolling plant forms of the ceramic tiles.