Jean-Louis-Charles Garnier


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French architect, a student of Lebas. During his time as a pensionnaire in Rome (1848–54) he visited Greece and Turkey, and seems to have been more enchanted with Byzantine and other styles than he was with Ancient Greek architecture, although he investigated the Temple of Aphaia at Aegina, largely from the point of view of its colouring in Antiquity. When he returned to Paris he worked for a period under Ballu, but took on what private commissions he could obtain. He made his name with his designs (won in competition) for the Opéra in Paris (1861–75), the most luxuriant building of the Second Empire and of the Beaux-Arts style, yet one in which the disposition of the main elements is immediately clear from the exterior. Garnier drew his inspiration from the Italian Renaissance, notably the architectural visions of Paolo Veronese (1528–88), the Venetian painter, while echoes of Sansovino are detectable. The lavish staircase mingled Baroque and Venetian Renaissance themes. The Opéra was immensely successful and influential, its confident brashness finally laying the drier aspects of French Rationalism to rest, and setting the agenda for public architectural style in France until 1914. The Opéra has tended to overshadow Garnier's many other architectural achievements. His ebullient interpretation of Italian and French Renaissance styles can be seen in a number of his works, including the Cercle de la Librairie (1878–9), 117 Boulevard St-Germain, the Maison Hachette apartment-block at 195 on the same Boulevard (1878–80), and, especially, the Casino, Monte Carlo (1876/8–9). The last, a lushly festive concoction, Influenced the style of buildings along the Riviera and in other seaside resorts. In the 1890s, however, the Casino theatre was altered to enable large-scale operatic performances to take place, and in 1897 Garnier protested, in vain, to the architect Henri Schmit (1851–1904) about the changes to his work.

He published his theory of theatre design in Le Théâtre (1871) and Nouvel Opéra de Paris (1878–81). His reconstruction of the temple at Aegina (complete with polychrome decorations) was published in Le Temple de Jupiter panhellenique à Egine (1884), and he also published works on domestic architecture in Constructions élevées aux Champs de Mars (1890) and L'Habitation humaine (1892).

Drexler (ed.) (1977);C. Garnier (1871, 1878–81);Klicxkowski (2003);Mead (1991);Patureau (1992);Steinhauser (1970)

Subjects: Architecture.

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