A French Art Nouveau flamed sandstone stoneware planter by Alexander Bigot for the architect Cintrat, featuring an organic pattern that repeats itself around the base. This Art Nouveau architectural element by the ceramic artist Alexandre Bigot serves as an elegant and versatile planter. With its subtle "grès flammé (flamed sandstone) glaze, it is equally at home in an indoor alcove, planted with serene orchids, or situated on a terrace or garden''s edge, overflowing with white petunias and bright green trailing vines. Free the fancy of your inner gardener and fill it with your own botanical style of visual energy!Alexandre Bigot (1862-1927) had embarked upon a promising career in physics and chemistry, but was captivated by the displays of Chinese porcelains at the 1889 Exposition Universelle, and abandoned his profession to dedicate himself to the art of ceramics. For ten years, he experimented with pottery and glazes. His doctoral degree in chemistry helped him create a variety of matte glazes with novel effects, such as metallic lusters and crystalline surfaces. By 1900, growing in skill and confidence, he had participated in Siegfried Bing''s inaugural exhibition at La Maison de l''Art Nouveau, and had won a grand prize at the turn-of-the-century Exposition Universelle. However, by the late 1890s Bigot was becoming fascinated by a new medium for artistic expression
in ceramics: the ground-breaking architecture and interiors of the Art Nouveau geniuses, among them Hector Guimard and Louis Majorelle. Excitement about this new style of architecture grew, as beautiful and original structures rose to relieve the homogeneity of Parisian Second Empire facades. Bigot re-envisioned and expanded his Paris manufacturing studio in order to contribute to this exciting new wave, helping to realize the architects'' vision in a variety of ways. His versatile ceramics, and his aptitude for collaborating closely with the artists and architects, helped fully realize this sculptural, plastic style of architecture, with its sense of free composition. His work product ranged from façade revetments to high relief floral, foliate and figural decorative motifs, from bespoke tilework designs to ceramic "masonry" with the appearance of carved, weathered stone.Bigot''s innovations were key to the construction of a number of famous and truly revolutionary Art Nouveau apartment houses and villas, prize-winning structures some of which fortunately survive. His first important success was decoration of the façade and breezeway of the celebrated Castel Beranger, whose architect Hector Guimard designed the famous Paris metro entrances. Bigot also collaborated with architect Henri Sauvage on Louis Majorelle''s renowned villa, where his ceramic panels, fireplace and other design flourishes helped generate the structure''s wider influence on architecture and interior design. For the architect Jules Lavirotte, Bigot, in cooperation with a number of artists, produced the artist-designed tiles and sculpture incorporated into the opulent façade of 29 Avenue Rapp, situated near the Tour Eiffel. One of the most acclaimed surviving Art Nouveau buildings in Paris, this was a revolutionary structure which explored new technologies, including sound proofing and ultralight iron-reinforced concrete. Most importantly, its complex façade harmoniously unifies the work of collaborating artists, realized by Bigot. Architectural critics consider the building to be strongly sculptural in itself. Always adapting to the evolving ideas of avant-garde architects, Bigot later created a sophisticated series of bespoke façade elements for 25bis Rue Franklin, a proto-modernist apartment house in the 16th, just across the Seine from the Tour Eiffel. The structure was the first to expose and assert the skeleton framework of the building as the defining architectural design, and Bigot''s work was used to highlight this novel vision. Its façade is covered with his myriad, hand-set ceramic forms, including chestnut leaves, small disks and interlocking fish scales in subtly varied hues and tones, that read from a distance as monumental vertical panels in beige, cream and yellow. The building was greatly admired by Le Courbusier. As the taste for the Art Nouveau faded, and since the artistic projects to which his business was geared did not tend to reward financially, Bigot''s enterprise was forced to close in 1914, but his astonishing work can still be admired throughout Paris and at the Villa Majorelle in Nancy, the birthplace of Art Nouveau.
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