École de Nancy (art)

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The Villa Majorelle in the style of Art Nouveau

The École de Nancy ( German  School of Nancy ) refers to the 1901 merger of leading representatives of Art Nouveau in the French city ​​of Nancy .

It is characterized above all by the close collaboration between artists, industrialists and merchants. The best known representative of the style was Émile Gallé . The École de Nancy found particular stylistic inspiration in the forms of the living nature and here (quote from the Michelin Guide) in “the gentle language of the Lorraine Forest”. Ornamental identifiers of this École were, for example, the use of images of thistles , dragonflies or ginkgo .


At the time it was founded, the École de Nancy was defined as a link between artists and the art industry. In keeping with the spirit of the times, it should enable the urban centers outside Paris to create an intellectual environment that would serve the teaching and development of industrial art production.

In Lorraine, in particular, it was intended to build a bridge between the strongly developed industrial base (particularly metallurgy) and the artisans ( cabinet makers , faience artists, glass artists in glass blowing and crystal processing as well as other arts and crafts areas). The systematic, industrial production of art should become possible through the combination of handicraft skills and commercial patronage . This approach included both one-offs, limited editions and series production. The largest possible, heterogeneous, affluent audience at home and abroad should be addressed in this way.

The “school” saw the promotion of the next generation as important. Through tenders, participation in competitions and practical training in the companies, it was possible to attract and promote a number of talented young people from Germany and abroad.

Fields of activity

Vase from the Daum glassworks (Nancy) around 1900

The École de Nancy aspired to penetrate as many areas of everyday human life as possible and brought together artists from various artistic directions. In addition to glass painting , metal processing (Gürtler), the art of wallpapering , goldsmithing and embroidery , architects and interior designers were also involved.


Art Nouveau, itself part of the art-historical epoch known in German-speaking countries as Art Nouveau, which encompassed the whole of Europe, reached its peak in France at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Particularly through the Arts and Crafts movement , towards the middle of the 19th century in England, the subjects of simple beauty, usefulness and quality came to the fore. In contrast to Arts and Crafts, however, Émile Gallé saw the hopelessness of a fight against the ever advancing industrialization . Standardization and professionalization offered Gallé the opportunity to serve a larger market and also to artistically design everyday products. Another source of inspiration for the École de Nancy was the Far East, particularly Japan.

Within Art Nouveau in France, the École de Nancy is characterized by a revival of Gothic elements and the Rococo . The École de Nancy can also be seen as an attempted emancipation from the style dictated by the capital.

Often motifs from living nature were chosen as the source of ideas. Emile Gallé, for example, worked closely with the naturalist Dominique Alexandre Godron . An uncomplicated exchange was possible in this area thanks to the Nancy-based horticultural school . The Japanese Hokkai Takashima attended courses here from 1885 to 1888, which in turn explains the Far Eastern influence on some of the works.


The art historical era of Art Nouveau coincides in Europe with the turn of the century. At the beginning, the main focus was on the major metropolises of the continent (Paris, Brussels, Munich, Vienna, Prague). Little by little, however, smaller cities developed into important centers of the new style. In Germany, for example, Darmstadt, Karlsruhe and Leipzig.

Nancy's rise as an industrial center

In France, Nancy in particular was to develop into a second Art Nouveau center alongside Paris. After Lorraine was annexed to France in the 18th century, the city had lost much of its former importance and had to contend with a sharp decline in population. Around 1850, only 40,000 people lived in the city. The tide turned in the middle of the 19th century. With the completion of the Canal de la Marne au Rhin in 1853, and the construction of the railway line from Paris to Strasbourg in 1856, it was possible to connect the previously backward region. This also facilitated the development of the chemical and metalworking industries that would make Lorraine one of the most industrialized regions in France.

But it was not until the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 that Nancy finally became the most important city in eastern France. While by the Treaty of Frankfurt , the Alsace and parts of Lorraine as obeyed the German Reich, Nancy remained in France. At first, the large number of French-speaking refugees from the annexed areas was a heavy burden for the city. However, among the new residents were also many industrialists from Alsace who had saved a large part of their wealth. The central government in Paris immediately recognized the strategic importance of Nancy as a gateway to the east and France's figurehead towards the lost territories. This mixture of capital, industrial knowledge and a social climate conducive to entrepreneurship led to an economic dynamic previously unknown in France. The emergence of Art Nouveau became a connecting element for people of different origins. It also gives the growing economic self-confidence a new cultural identity.

Foundation of the École de Nancy

Chair in the museum of the École de Nancy with giant hogweed as a motif.

While individual artists, such as Émile Gallé, were able to present their works at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1889 , it was not until 1894 that one could speak of a real artist community. On the occasion of the Exposition d'arts décoratifs et industriel lorrain , organized by the architect Charles André , the artists exhibited together for the first time. The 1900 World's Fair in Paris turned out to be a resounding success for the group. Around fifty exhibitors and artists from Lorraine received awards or were honored. Including Antonin Daum and Louis Majorelle , who were later made Knights of the Legion of Honor .

On January 11, 1901, Gallé published an open letter to the artisans from Lorraine in the newspaper l'Étoile de l'Est with the request to join forces to promote the independent arts industry in Lorraine. This also seemed necessary to him due to the growing gap with the German competition. On February 13, 1901, the École de Nancy was officially founded. In the same year this also began to have an impact on the cityscape. Majorelle entrusts the Paris architect Henri Sauvage with the construction of his house. Many more buildings in the city would soon follow, including department stores, banks and hotels.

Only Majorelle and Daum were able to participate in the Prima Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte Decorativa Moderna 1902 exhibition in Turin due to financial difficulties. In 1903 the group exhibited in the Louvre on the initiative of the Union centrale des arts décoratifs . Another exhibition followed in Nancy in 1904.


With the sudden death of Emile Gallé on September 23, 1904, Victor Prouvé took over the management of the École de Nancy. Her days, however, were numbered. A last major exhibition took place in 1909 on the occasion of the Exposition Internationale de l'Est de la France in Nancy . With 2 million visitors, it did not come close to the world exhibition of 1900 (estimated 50 million visitors), but still gave the group an opportunity to show and market their works in their own pavilion.

The outbreak of World War I and the advent of Art Deco marked the definitive end of Art Nouveau in France and the École de Nancy. Until the 1980s, the inheritance, which is primarily architecturally present in the cityscape, was pushed aside. In the 1970s, some of the buildings in Nancy were even demolished to create a new, modern, business district around the train station.

Perception today

An aquarium in the garden of Corbin. The Japanese influence can be seen on the roof.

With the establishment of a museum in 1964, it was possible to arouse new interest in the École de Nancy inside and outside the city. The museum was set up on the premises of the former estate of Eugène Corbin (1867–1952), a well-known department store owner and patron. Meanwhile, a change of heart has also begun in the city administration. On the occasion of the centenary, around 350 buildings were renovated and over 50 of them are now listed.


  • François Loyer (ed.): L'École de Nancy et les arts décoratifs en Europe , Serpenoise, Metz 2000, ISBN 2-87692-447-1 .

Web links

Commons : École de Nancy  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Freely translated from the French according to Michelin Guide: Alsace Lorraine . 2008, L'École de Nancy, p. 84.
  2. a b c Célébrations nationales 1999: l'École de Nancy 1899 at www.culture.gouv.fr, last accessed on April 21, 2010.
  3. ^ A b François Loyer: L'Ecole de Nancy (PDF document; 101 kB), last accessed on April 21, 2010
  4. ^ Réseau Art Nouveau Network, Association of European Cities ( Memento of March 8, 2010 in the Internet Archive ), last accessed April 21, 2010
  5. Hokkai TAKASHIMA, on the website of the Museum École de Nancy , last accessed on April 21, 2010.
  6. Sylvie Mazaraky, Jos Vanden Breeden: L'Art Nouveau: passerelle entre les siècles et les arts ISBN 2873864133 extract in the Google Book Search
  7. Anne-Laure Dusoir: L'Ecole de Nancy à l'Exposition Internationale de l'Est de la France. Retrieved November 16, 2019 .
  8. Valérie Thomas: Emile Gallé et l'association École de Nancy (1901-1904) ( Memento of March 3, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF document, 480 KB), last accessed April 21, 2010.