Victor Horta

(1861—1947) Belgian architect

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A leading Belgian Art Nouveau architect and designer best known for his buildings, interiors, furniture, and furnishings in Brussels in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Horta studied drawing, textiles, and architecture at the Académie des Beaux‐Arts in Ghent from 1874 to 1877, before going on to work in Paris until 1881 to 1884 at the Académie des Beaux‐Arts in Brussels. His work over a ten‐year period from 1893 marked his involvement with the flowing forms of Art Nouveau and was characterized by the idea of the ‘total work of art’ in which furniture, furnishings, and interior decoration were part of a fully integrated building. Horta was influenced by the rationalist principles of Viollet‐Le‐Duc as revealed in the decorative use of structural ironwork that became a hallmark of his buildings. His first major work was the Hôtel Tassel (1892–3) for the engineer Émile Tassel, in which he paid close attention to ornament and decoration, making considerable use of organic motifs drawn from nature and the expressive form of the ‘whiplash’ as in the dramatic iron staircase. His most extravagant building was perhaps the Hôtel Solvay (1895–1900) for the industrialist Armand Solvay. He also designed the Maison du Peuple (1895), making considerable use of iron and glass. Not only was Horta aesthetically progressive in his rejection of historicist forms he also used electricity to light his buildings. He was well connected in Art Nouveau circles, designing a shop façade (not executed) for the Art Nouveau entrepreneur Samuel Bing in Paris, and his work was featured in the inaugural issue of the periodical Art et décoration in 1897. He also designed furniture and decorations for the Brussels Pavilion at the Turin Esposizione Internationale d'Arte Decorativa Moderna of 1902, one of the last major exhibitions of Art Nouveau buildings and design. After the early years of the 20th century Horta's work took on a more academic direction and from 1912 he was a professor at the Académie des Beaux‐Arts in Brussels where he became the director from 1927 to 1931.

Subjects: Architecture — Decorative Arts, Furniture, and Industrial Design.

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