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Eugène Viollet-le-Duc


Dec 16, 2021

Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc (French: [øʒɛn vjɔlɛlədyk]; 27 January 1814  17 September 1879) was a French architect and author who restored many prominent medieval landmarks in France, including those which had been damaged or abandoned during the French Revolution. His major restoration projects included Notre-Dame de Paris, the Basilica of Saint Denis, Mont Saint-Michel, Sainte-Chapelle, and the medieval walls of the city of Carcassonne, and he planned much of the physical construction of the Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World). His later writings on the relationship between form and function in architecture had a notable influence on a new generation of architects, including Victor Horta, Hector Guimard, Antoni Gaudí, Hendrik Petrus Berlage, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.

French architect and author
Not to be confused with Violette Leduc.
Eugène Viollet-le-Duc

Photograph by Nadar
Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc

(1814-01-27)27 January 1814

Paris, France
Died 17 September 1879(1879-09-17) (aged 65)

Lausanne, Switzerland
Nationality French
Occupation Architect
Awards Royal Gold Medal (1864)

. . . Eugène Viollet-le-Duc . . .

Viollet-le-Duc was born in Paris in 1814, in the last year of the Empire of Napoleon Bonaparte. His grandfather was an architect, and his father was a high-ranking civil servant, who in 1816 became the overseer of the royal residences of Louis XVIII. His uncle Étienne-Jean Delécluze was a painter, a former student of Jacques-Louis David, an art critic and hosted a literary salon, which was attended by Stendhal and Sainte-Beuve. His mother hosted her own salon, which women could attend as well as men. There, in 1822 or 1823, Eugène met Prosper Mérimée, a writer who would play a decisive role in his career.[1][2]

In 1825 he began his education at the Pension Moran, in Fontenay-aux-Roses. He returned to Paris in 1829 as a student at the College de Bourbon (now the Lycée Condorcet). He passed his baccalaureate examination in 1830. His uncle urged him to enter the École des Beaux-Arts, which had been created in 1806, but the École had an extremely rigid system, based entirely on copying classical models, and Eugène was not interested. Instead he decided to get practical experience in the architectural offices of Jacques-Marie Huvé and Achille Leclère, while devoting much of his time to drawing medieval churches and monuments around Paris.

He participated in the July 1830 revolution which overthrew Charles X, building a barricade, his first known construction project. Following the revolution, which brought Louis Philippe to power, his father became chief of the bureau of royal residences. The new government created, for the first time, the position of Inspector General of Historic Monuments. Eugène’s uncle Delécluze agreed to take Eugène on a long tour of France to see monuments. They travelled from July to October 1831 throughout the south of France, and he returned with a large collection of detailed paintings and watercolours of churches and monuments.[1]

Women’s Banquet at the Tuileries painted by Viollet-le-Duc (1835)

On his return to Paris, he moved with his family into the Tuileries Palace, where his father was now governor of royal residences. His family again urged him to attend the École des Beaux-Arts, but he still refused. He wrote in his journal in December 1831, “the École is just a mould for architects. they all come out practically identical.”[1] He was a talented and meticulous artist; he travelled around France to visit monuments, cathedrals, and other medieval architecture, made detailed drawings and watercolours, which he sometimes sold at a high price to members of the Court.[3]

On May 3, 1834, at age twenty, he married Élisabeth Templier, and in the same year he was named an associate professor of ornamental decoration at the Royal School of Decorative Arts, which gave him a more regular income.[4] His first pupils there included Léon Gaucherel.[5]

With the money from the sale of his drawings and paintings, Viollet-le-Duc and his wife set off on a long tour of the monuments of Italy, visiting Rome, Venice, Florence and other sites, drawing and painting. His reaction to the Leaning Tower of Pisa was characteristic: “It was extremely disagreeable to see”, he wrote, “it would have been infinitely better if it had been straight.”[4] In 1838, he presented several of his drawings at the Paris Salon, and began making a travel book, Picturesque and romantic images of the old France, for which, between 1838 and 1844, he made nearly three hundred engravings.[6]

. . . Eugène Viollet-le-Duc . . .

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. . . Eugène Viollet-le-Duc . . .