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ROBERT MALLET-STEVENS
 
 
 
 
  Name Robert Mallet-Stevens 
     
  Born March 24, 1886
     
  Died February 8, 1945
     
  Nationality France
     
  School  
     
  Official website www.malletstevens.com
     
 
BIOGRAPHY
 

Robert Mallet-Stevens played an important role in French mod-
ernism at the beginning of the 20th century. While he practiced
architecture within the mode of International Style through his
collaborations with artists, sculptors, film directors, painters, and
furniture designers, he also developed a unique formal language.

Mallet-Stevens was the son of a prominent art expert associ-
ated with the Paris Impressionists. In 1905 he joined the Ecole
Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris where his interest quickly turned
to the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, whose organization of inte-
rior spaces he admired. The same year, his uncle Adolf Stoclet
called on the Viennese architect Josef Hoffmann, a family friend,
to build his main residence (the Palais Stoclet, Brussels,). Hoff-
mann, along with Otto Wagner and the Vienna Secessionist
movement, influenced Mallet-Stevens greatly. Encouraged by
Francis Jourdain, his projects for furniture and interiors were
exhibited in the Salon d’Automne, access that allowed him to
meet with the decorator Pierre Chareau and with the sculptors

the Martel brothers, with whom he collaborated during his entire
life.

In 1922, while Le Corbusier designed his master plan for a
Contemporary City for Three Million Inhabitants, Mallet-
Stevens was publishing an album of drawings, Une cité moderne
that reflected the eclecticism of the Viennese Secession. (What
united the Secession members was their rejection of historical
realism in painting and revivalism in architecture, in favor of
Jugenstil, and the proto-functionalism of Deco and Bauhaus
aesthetics). Une cité moderne consisted of a collection of build-
ings, individual fragments of an urban repertoire—a police sta-
tion, a town hall, a bus stop, or bridges—each type possessing an
autonomous form. The project demonstrated a tendency toward
eclecticism, which he would later reject.

Mallet-Stevens’s most important commission came in 1923,
when the Viscount de Noailles and his wife, a young French
aristocrat, decided to build a splendid villa in Hyéres, France.
After meeting with Le Corbusier, who declined the invitation,
and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who was not suitable for politi-
cal reasons, the viscount discovered Mallet-Stevens, a Paris ac-
quaintance who had not yet built any significant commissions.
With the Villa Noailles, however, Mallet-Stevens achieved a re-
ductive yet elegant expression of simple cubic volumes. He pre-
ferred clean facades to constructive details or ornament; smooth
gray and white surfaces and large horizontal openings composed
the house. The villa was later to be showcased in a Surrealist
film made in 1928 by Man Ray titled Le mystére du chateau de
Dé (The Mysteries of the Chateau of Die), in which the artist
melded the stark forms of the villa with Stéphane Mallarmé’s
poem “Un coups de dé jamais n’abolira le hasar” (“A throw of
dice will never abolish chance”).

Mallet-Stevens designed numerous sets for the cinema in-
cluding Marcel l’Herbier’s L'inhumaine (The Inhuman One,

1923), a collaborative project that also included cubo-futurist
painter Fernand Léger and designer René Lalique. The film was
acclaimed by the Club des Amis du Septiéme Art (Friends of the
Cinematographic Arts), the first avant-garde ciné-club of its kind
to which Mallet-Stevens belonged. His colleagues led him to
design his largest project in 1926-27, the Rue Mallet-Stevens
houses in Auteuil, a street of urban mansions for the architect,
artists, and his patrons. The ensemble was a series of houses
ending at the border of the street, expressed through a consistent
yet varied Cubist vocabulary.

After 1926, influenced in part by De Stijl aesthetics and his
own shift towards reductivism, Mallet-Stevens abandoned orna-
mentation and continued to develop modernist pavilions for
the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs (International
Exhibition of Decorative Arts, Paris, 1925, 1937), private villas
(such as the Corbusian-inspired Villa Cavroix, in Croix, France,
1932), and commercial buildings, such as the Garage Alfa-
Romeo in Paris (1925). The latter reflected his passion for ma-
chines and speed shared with the Italian Futurists. At the begin-
ning of World War II, Mallet-Stevens fled to southern France
with his Jewish wife and worked on large-scale competitions in
which he insisted on the value of volumetric masses. His key
role in the French avant-garde was neglected until 1980, when
his work was brought to light with the reconstruction of the
Villa Noailles and the rediscovery of Dadaist cinema. Criticized
by his peers for being too much a formalist, the architect was
nevertheless a designer of great importance in the development
of modern art and architecture in France in the first part of the
20th century.

Marc IraMar BRETLER

 
 
 
 
 
TIMELINE
 

Born in Paris, 24 March 1886 to a Belgian family; uncle Baron
Stoclet was an architect and designer. Attended the Ecole Spécial
d Architecture, Patis 1903-06. Private practice, Paris from 1907;
designed film sets between 1919 and 1929. Founding member,

Union des Artistes Modernes 1929. Died in Paris, 8 February
1945, after a long illness.

 
 
 
 
 
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