Nancy Visit Report

We had a most interesting and stimulating Study Day Outing, firstly to Kilburn, where we had a very nice welcome with coffee and biscuits...

Nancy Visit Report

Nancy: September 9-13 2019

The visit to Nancy and Metz was a revelation. Not just for Art Nouveau, but also for the ability to walk round a townscape that is not crowded with other tourists and to stand and examine a building that stands as a monument to its time. Also, our guide, Mike Hope, was knowledgeable and enthusiastic as well as being experienced in leading groups who require regular stops for coffee and ice-cream.

We travelled by Eurostar and TGV to Nancy and enjoyed a meal on the first evening in a Belle Epoque restaurant, the Majestic. The following day was taken up by a walk round Nancy, not just examining Art Nouveau buildings, but wandering along medieval streets and admiring the huge Stanislas Square, surrounded by buildings constructed in the Baroque style.

Metz on our second full day proved interesting. The town is close to the German border and its history of occupation is clear upon arrival, with the architecture of the Railway Station. Entering the hilltop cathedral, which is in the medieval area, is breath-taking, since it has an immensely tall Gothic nave and impressive stained glass. We recovered our breath in the September sunshine and were able to enjoy lunch outside. To contrast with the overwhelming grandeur of the Cathedral, the small Church of St Maximin is where we found stained-glass windows designed by Jean Cocteau. The Pompidou Centre was memorable because of the unusual shape of the roof, and the excellent café where many of us ended the afternoon, reviving ourselves after experiencing some unusual art.

On Wednesday, we began the morning by viewing a row of houses built in the early 20th century in the Art Nouveau style, and then visited the Musee de l’Ecole de Nancy, a charming and beautiful house set in a delightful garden. The house, an Art Nouveau gem, is furnished with objects designed by Émile Gallé, Victor Prouvé, Louis Majorelle, Antonin Daum and Eugène Vallin. An aquarium, erected in a corner of the garden, contains stained glass by Jacques Gruber. Our afternoon was taken up with a visit to the Musee de Beaux Arts, where some were disappointed not to be able to see the Daum glass galleries, while others learnt about the painter Émile Friant.

Mike Hope had saved Maison Bergeret for our final visit in Nancy, and it was an appropriate climax. An Art Nouveau building, surrounded and squeezed by departments belonging to the University, it is clearly under threat of demolition, and we felt privileged to be able to enter and wander round the untouched rooms, filled with the original bespoke furniture. The stained-glass amazed us all, while the fittings showed the attention to the smallest detail.

This was a truly successful visit, both educational and enjoyable, and thanks were expressed to Mike Hope, our lecturer, and Joanna Finlay, the Visits Secretary.

Helen Byard