Georges Hœntschel (1855-1915), Wood-paneled drawing room, Paris, 1900

Georges Hœntschel (1855-1915), Wood-paneled drawing room, Paris, 1900

Algerian plane tree wood, glass, brass; silk wall covering designed by Adrien Karbowsky (1855-1945) and made by the Le Borgne company; painting The Happy Island by Albert Besnard (1849-1934)
7.12 x 14.3 x 6 m
Purchase, 1900
Inv. 9403 A-G
© Les Arts Décoratifs

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In 1891, it was decided to set up the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in the Marsan wing of the Louvre. The inauguration of the museum was supposed to coincide with the World’s Fair of 1900, but was delayed. For the purposes of the World’s Fair, therefore, the decorator and collector Georges Hœntschel was entrusted to decorate the pavilion of the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs, on the theme of a collector’s cabinet. At the time, Georges Hœntschel’s reputation was based on the eighteenth-century style interior decorations that were commissioned from him by wealthy French, British and American clients. His work in France incuded the decoration of the Pavillon des Muses in Neuilly for the poet Robert de Montesquiou in 1899, and the mansion of the couturier Jacques Doucet in 1907. The UCAD pavilion at the World’s Fair of 1900 resembled an eighteenth-century folly, but the carved decoration on the facades, inspired by the plant world, was given a modern, naturalist style. The interior layout of the building comprised a string of four rooms: the “Metals Room” which served as an entrance hall; the central “Wood-Paneled Drawing Room,” the “Ceramics Room” (reserved for the works of Georges Hœntschel); and a small room for the Ladies’ Committee. The central room was the only one decorated with paneling made of Algerian plane-tree wood, consisting of two openwork porticoes opening into the two other rooms and, in the four corners, three-part display cabinets for the objects acquired from artists by the UCAD over the last twenty years. The decoration was completed by a pink wall covering designed by Adrien Karbowsky and several furniture pieces: a table, four armchairs and display cabinets, purchased by the museum in 1900. The display cabinets and furniture stand on sturdy hawthorn legs carved by Deschamps; the wood paneling frames the wall covering embroidered with hawthorn branches and the painting The Happy Island, commissioned from the painter Albert Besnard and inspired by Watteau’s Pilgrimage to Cythera. This decorative ensemble – reassembled by Hœntschel in the French pavilion at the World’s Fair in St-Louis in 1904 – was installed in 1905, after a few adjustments, in the Louvre’s Marsan wing, where the public can still see it today. The decorator adapted the original square floor plan to the room’s rectangular shape and turned three corner display cabinets into wall units. He had to add two smaller display cabinets, as one of the originals had been given to the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg. This room, a rare surviving example of the decoration designed for the World’s Fair of 1900, is one of the jewels of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and testifies to Georges Hœntschel’s brilliant foray into Art Nouveau.

É. P.

Évelyne Possémé, “Le Salon du Bois du pavillon de l’Union centrale des arts décoratifs à l’Exposition universelle de 1900,“ Revue de l’Art, no. 117, 1997-3, pp. 64-70
Nicole Hœntschel, Georges Hœntschel, Paris, Éditions Monelle Hayot, 1999.

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