The end of the 19th century heralded the arrival of Art Nouveau, a vast artistic movement of renewal in the decorative arts and architecture, as well as in furniture, jewellery, literature...
Art Nouveau is distinguished by its original style: its artists returned to the observation of nature, drawing their inspiration from insects and plants, as well as Gothic buildings and Japanese prints. They also developed a particular taste for elegant and extravagant short curved lines.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Adrien Recouvrreur, a pharmacist from Commercy and director of the town's Caisse d'Epargne, suggested calling upon the services of Victor Prouvé to decorate the ceilings of the board room of the new Caisse d'Epargne. Another pharmacist, Georges Malard, chose to call in Eugène Vallin to build the dispensary that he wished to create in Commercy. At the same time, the Euville town council decided to construct a new town hall and entrusted the project to Henri Gutton.
Prouvé, Vallin, and Gutton were just a few of the great names of the Ecole de Nancy - the Art Nouveau movement - who were to work in the Pays de Commercy.
In 1890, the first stone of the new church of Saint Pierre et Saint Paul was laid. The project was completed in less than two years. Amongst the numerous artists who collaborated in this project were the master glazier Emmanuel Champigneulle and cabinet maker Eugène Vallin. This was their first public commission in the Meuse.
The Euville town hall
Turned down on several occasions, the construction of a new town hall was approved in 1900. Henri Gutton was given responsibility for the project. For the town council, the idea behind this new town hall - the only public commission awarded to the Ecole de Nancy - was that it should be a real advertisement for Euville
stone, the stone that brought wealth to the village. There are those who would have no hesitation in saying that this is France's richest commune!
In 1901, a first plan was presented, and the invitation to tender was launched. But the project met with delays. In 1903, Gutton called upon Eugène Vallin to remodel the main facade. It is to him that we owe the building's most decidedly Art Nouveau aspect. It is in the interior designs, approved in 1906, that we find many leading names from the Ecole de Nancy: Vallin was instrumental in the decoration of the entrance hall and the grand staircase, and then in the sculpted decor of the community hall; the lights are by the Majorelle brothers; using American glass, Emmanuel Champigneulle produced the windows of the community hall, and Jacques Gruber made the grand staircase windows, already supplied with a wrought-iron banister by Edgar Brandt.
These can be seen during the town hall's normal opening hours: Monday to Friday from 8:30 to 11:30am, Wednesdays from 2:30 to 4:30pm, and Saturdays from 9 to 11am.
Outside these hours, information is obtainable at the Pays de Commercy
tourist office: http://www.commercy.org/
Lying midway across the Meuse, below the Barrage des Allemands, this little island was purchased by Georges Malard, the pharmacist who brought Vallin to Commercy
. Here, he could devote his time to his beloved fishing whilst creating a little haven of peace for his family - a place that would not have displeased the artists from the Ecole de Nancy. Nowadays the island is open to walkers.
Vallin was contacted for the building of the new pharmacy while he was completing the Euville
town hall's community hall. He undertook the shop front and the interior fittings and called upon the stained-glass artist Joseph Janin to provide the stained-glass windows and Charles Friedrich for the wallpaper (no longer in existence). The shop front is made entirely of varnished Padouk (coral wood) and the interior fittings are in waxed Padouk for the structure and in mahogany for the panelling.
Digitalis and poppy in the stained-glass windows at the back, arum in the shop window, arum again in the door handles, umbel and medicinal herbs for the panelling... the plant decor is quite meticulous.
May be seen during the pharmacy's normal opening hours; information at the Pays de Commercy
tourist office: http://www.commercy.org/
At the beginning of the 20th century, Art Nouveau in architecture spread the length of the Meuse valley. Handed over in 1902 and reminiscent of Baltard pavilions, the covered market
in Saint-Mihiel replaced the 16th-century market. The pillars are of wrought iron, and the rest of the structure and framework are of rolled iron. Polychromatic bricks form geometric motifs filling the empty space between the metal beams. Varnished ceramic, and fruit and vegetable chutes complete the decor. After the First World War, many buildings were rebuilt invoking Art Nouveau ideas. Information at the Saint-Mihiel
tourist office: http://otsisaintmihiel.e-monsite.com/