Review: At the Driehaus Museum, Hector Guimard Exhibit Explores the Work of the Paris Architect Who Designed Those Beloved Métro Stations

Hector Guimard was a French architect and designer who believed in designing the entire environment for living, in what he called Le Style Guimard. His integrated design work in the era of art nouveau and beyond made him part of the panoply of designers such as William Morris, Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Victor Horta. Now you can get acquainted with the work of Guimard in a new exhibit at the Driehaus Museum, running through November 5.  

Guimard worked in a variety of materials, including fabrics (such as embroidered silk), porcelain, glass, wallpaper and metal—mot notably the cast iron work for which he is best known. Because you will recognize the most famous of Guimard’s designs—the Paris Metro stations—even though you may not have known he created them. 

Hector Guimard: Art Nouveau to Modernism brings together about 100 works including furniture, jewelry, metalwork, ceramics, drawings and textiles from collections worldwide. The show addresses the work of his wife and creative partner, Adeline Oppenheim Guimard, an American artist from a wealthy New York family. They met while she was in Paris to study painting. 

Two lamps created by Guimard. Left, Lustre Lumiere Hanging Lamp c. 1912 (gilt bronze and glass). Right, Lustre Lumiere Table Lamp 1900-1910 (gilt bronze and glass). From the Richard H. Driehaus Collection.

Guimard’s work was a radical departure from the classical style; he rebelled against the classicism of the Ecole des Beaux Arts, where he enrolled in 1887.  His work, like that of Louis Sullivan, adopted natural forms and integrated architecture with the decorative arts. 

The Driehaus exhibit, curated by guest curator David A. Hanks and Sarah Coffin, former Cooper Hewitt curator, is organized in five thematic sections on two floors of the Richard H. Driehaus Museum, the former Nickerson mansion on Erie Street. 

Visionary Architect. Drawings, plans, photographs and architectural fragments are featured in this section, which highlights Guimard’s work on Castel Beranger, considered his masterpiece, and Castel Henriette. Castel Beranger, constructed 1885-87, was the first example of Guimard creating a total work of art; he planned and designed every element of the building; for Castel Henriette (demolished in 1969), he also designed all the furnishings. Guimard constructed a dozen apartment buildings, villas and houses, mostly in Paris’ 16th arrondissement, in the 1890s.

Guimard as Entrepreneur explores the marketing and branding Guimard did to help him succeed in developing Le Style Guimard. He created exhibitions, posters, postcards and publications to advertise his work.

Left, Cerny Vase from Hotel Guimard, designed 1900, executed 1908 (porcelain). Right, Jardiniere, Model GD c. 1908 (cast iron). From the Richard H. Driehaus Collection.

In the Design for Production section, the curators have gathered examples of Guimard’s collaboration with various French manufacturers. Here we see designs produced by the Sevres porcelain manufactory, by Langlois for glass pendant lamps, and by the Saint Dizier Foundries, where his cast iron works were produced. 

M and Mme Guimard features many objects that Guimard designed for Hotel Guimard, the home he designed and shared with Mme Guimard, where he applied his philosophy of integrated design to their 1909 wedding as well as their new home. He designed Adeline’s engagement ring and her exquisitely embroidered silk wedding dress. Guimard also designed their home and many objects to furnish it, including furnishings, table linens, carpeting and even door handles. Many additional jewelry pieces and home decor items from the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art are displayed.

The couple left Paris in 1938 for the US, where they settled in New York. Mme Guimard was Jewish and her husband was alarmed by the rise of the Nazi regime. (Guimard had been a member of the jury judging architectural works at the 1937 Paris Exposition, where he would have seen the monumental Nazi German pavilion designed by Albert Speer and recognized its ominous tone.) Adeline lived for 20 years after her husband’s death in 1942 and worked to preserve his legacy. 

Installation view. In the alcove, Table Lamp c. 1900 (painted bronze, colored blown glass, clear glass chimney, painted brass, fabric shade). From the Richard H. Driehaus Collection.

Guimard for the People, on the third floor, displays his use of production technology such as standardized building components, to promote his vision of design for all the people. This section includes examples of the cast iron panels used in Paris Métro station entrances. Here we also learn about his unrealized plans for standardized housing at modest prices based on his concept of standardized construction. 

Hector Guimard: Art Nouveau to Modernism is the first major American exhibition devoted to Guimard since a 1970 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. The current exhibit was co-organized with the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, in New York where it was on view November 2022 through May 2023. 

Le Cercle Guimard, an organization devoted to promoting  and protecting the works of Hector Guimard, is working on a plan to create a new Guimard museum in Paris. The likely location will be the Hotel Mazzara, a mansion built by Guimard in 1910 in the Auteuil district of the 16th arrondissement.

The Driehaus exhibit is illustrated in the exhibition catalog, a full color, hard-cover book published by Yale University Press in association with the Driehaus Museum. The catalog is edited by co-curator David A. Hanks. In addition to other new scholarship, the catalog includes an essay by co-curator Sarah Coffin discussing Adeline Oppenheim as her husband’s partner and a determined preserver of his legacy. The 232-page catalog is available from the publisher.

Hector Guimard: Art Nouveau to Modernism will be on display at the Driehaus Museum, 40 E. Erie St., through November 5. The museum is open 11am-3pm Wednesday, 11am-5pm Thursday and Sunday and 10am-5pm Friday and Saturday. Admission is $20 with discounts available. Tours are offered for the public and for private groups. More information here.

All photos by Nancy S Bishop.

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Nancy S Bishop
Nancy S Bishop

Nancy S. Bishop is publisher and Stages editor of Third Coast Review. She’s a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and a 2014 Fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. You can read her personal writing on pop culture at, and follow her on Twitter @nsbishop. She also writes about film, books, art, architecture and design.