the thing is, even though we were there for more than three hours, it felt like we’d barely been there at all.
A solid (if somewhat late) example of the Art Nouveau style, the Wisteria dining room (66.244.1–.25) comes from a house in Paris at 10 bis Avenue Élysée-Reclus (at the foot of the Eiffel Tower) designed by the architect Lucien Hesse and built for Auguste Rateau (1863–1930), an engineer who manufactured turbo and internal combustion engines and was a member of the Académie des Sciences as well as an art connoisseur with a particular interest in the Art Nouveau movement. The room and all its contents were conceived as a unified whole and were created in 1910–14
under the artistic supervision of Rateau’s friend Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer (1865–1953), who was also responsible for a number of other rooms in the apartment including two salons, a library, and a study (appropriately decorated with a frieze of stylized turbines and engine parts). In 1950, the apartment was rented on an eighteen-year lease to Monsieur René de Montaigu, with stipulation that he purchase the by-then-out-of-fashion Art Nouveau woodwork and furnishings at the time of the lease signing. The dining room remained intact in Paris until 1966 when it was purchased—in its entirety—by the Metropolitan Museum from Monsieur de Montaigu; elements from other rooms of the apartment were later sold at public auction in Paris.
Despite early work as a lithographer, between 1887 and 1895 Lévy-Dhurmer served as artistic director at the ceramics factory of the well-known Clément Massier in Golfe-Juan (a town on the Mediterranean coast of France), where he became known for his experimentations with metallic luster glazes based on Middle Eastern and Hispano-Moresque pottery. Around 1895, he turned his hand to painting instead, establishing his professional reputation in an 1896 exhibition at the Georges Petit gallery in Paris; he later became a member of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. Around 1910, he began to explore the related process of interior decorating, leading to this commission.
Like many of his contemporaries (such as Josef Hoffmann in Austria, Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Scotland, Frank Lloyd Wright in America, Victor Horta in Belgium, and Hector Guimard in France), Lévy-Dhurmer worked as an ensemblier, conceiving interiors as “total works of art” by designing not only the architectural setting but also everything—down to the door handles and drawer pulls—that went into them so that no single element would offend the eye because it was inconsistent with the whole. One major difference, however, was Lévy-Dhurmer’s approach as an artist rather than an architect.
The wisteria motif, selected by Madame Rateau, may represent “welcome,” a theme appropriate for a dining room. Lévy-Dhurmer incorporated the motif throughout the room: the canvases painted in the pointillist style, depict herons and peacocks standing in wisteria-laden landscapes; the book-matched walnut-veneered wall panels are inlaid with purplish amaranth wood representing clusters of wisteria blossoms; further clusters of blossoms and leaves may be found carved on the furniture and stamped on the leather upholstery. It even appears in such details as the door handles, drawer pulls, and the gilded details of the fire screen. The standing lamps evoke the twisting trunks of wisteria vines. Lévy-Dhurmer took care to treat the flowering vine motif in a manner true to nature: climbing vines and leaves appear in the lower portions of the room, while carved clusters of blossoms hang from the crown molding as though from a garden trellis; further blossoms appear to have fallen to the floor, scattered across the carpet.
Because the Wisteria dining room is preserved entirely furnished as it stood when completed, even the rug especially made for it, and because contemporary documentation provides us with the names of the team of craftsmen responsible—even that of the man who upholstered the chairs with embossed leather—this Art Nouveau room is unique in an American museum. A small group of French Art Nouveau objects from the Museum’s modern design collection have been selected to augment the installation of the Wisteria dining room, including a mantel clock by Joseph Garino (owned by Monsieur de Montaigu), works in glass by Émile Gallé and Daum, ceramics by Auguste Delaherche, Ernest Chaplet, and Émile Decoeur, and metalwork by Jean Dunand. Today, the room is viewed through the original window embrasures.
here are a few lovely things from the Tiffany rooms.
these two were in the airy american wing.
lunch! Deliciously overpriced.
out the window, some dogs enjoying the beautiful day in central park. i had hoped to have a little time to sit in the park again, because that’s one of my favorite things to do in NYC, but somehow we didn’t have time.
the final thing we saw was a special exhibit called “Seurat’s Circus Sideshow.” here’s a brief description from the met:
Taking as its focus one of The Met’s most captivating masterpieces, this thematic exhibition affords a unique context for appreciating the heritage and allure of Circus Sideshow (Parade de cirque), painted in 1887–88 by Georges Seurat (1859–1891). Anchored by a remarkable group of related works by Seurat that fully illuminates the lineage of the motif in his inimitable conté crayon drawings, the presentation explores the fascination the sideshow subject held for other artists in the nineteenth century, ranging from the great caricaturist Honoré Daumier at mid-century to the young Pablo Picasso at the fin de siècle.
well, we didn’t look at all the artwork, but this was one of my favorites. i wish i could have gotten a better shot of it. it’s a japanese woodblock print from 1881; dad would have loved it.
this is a lithograph by paul signac.
i’m including this description of the lithograph because i think it’s interesting.
and this is the grand finale, seurat’s circus sideshow.
and here’s the description:
and that’s it for the met, whew. it was a very busy last day in new york.