Embracing art nouveau

nancy-france-central-plaza-laxouAt the end of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Germany annexed part of Lorraine and many wealthy merchants fled to Nancy where they commissioned entire neighborhoods of stunning Art Nouveau houses and shops. Recently developed building materials of concrete and rebar made possible the installation of big arches and large shop windows. With decoration inspired by natural curves and a passion for asymmetry, Art Nouveau reshaped Stanislas’s city. One of the dispossessed was a lawyer named Jean Daum. When he came to Nancy, all he had left were a few shares in a failing glassworks.

Too poor to raise money to hire a manager to run it, he took over the works himself and was later joined by his two sons. Together they built a company that put Nancy on the artworks map. In defiance of Germany, Daum produced protest glass celebrating French heroes and symbols like Joan of Arc and the fleur-de-lis. The collection of Daum art glass in the basement of the Beaux Arts Museum comes in spectacular rainbow shades and infinity of shapes and patterns. Going with the Art Nouveau theme, I had lunch at the Excelsior Brasserie near Rue Stanislas. It is an exquisitely maintained Art Nouveau restaurant from France’s Golden Age and I expected to see Toulouse-Lautrec redheads from the Folies-Bergère drinking absinthe at corner tables. Absinthe wasn’t on the menu but the region’s signature dish, quiche Lorraine, was superb.