JOURDAIN, Frantz
(b. 1847, Antwerpen, d. 1935, Paris)

Biography

French writer and architect. He studied architecture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the 1860s. By the 1890s he was a leading art critic, writing disparaging essays about the Ecole. Jourdain's articles were widely published and frequently quoted. He was a supporter of new ideas and became known as a proponent of Modernism and modern art. Jourdain urged young architects to reject their anachronistic academic training and to avoid historical styles, thereby creating new architectural forms. He also criticized the élitist handicraft approach of the English Arts and Crafts movement. He supported unity in the arts and favoured a collaboration between art and industry.

Jourdain's major building commission was from Ernest Cognacq (1839-1928), for the Art Nouveau department store, La Samaritaine in Paris (1905-10). His design was radical in its use of glass and an exposed steel frame. The brilliantly coloured building was lavishly decorated in a naturalistic ornament. Despite its appearance, the building was rational, serving perfectly the function for which it was designed. Within a decade, however, La Samaritaine was caught in an abrupt shift in taste that rejected Art Nouveau and was regarded with contempt, especially by younger architects. In the late 1920s, the building was enlarged, remodelled drastically, and its striking projecting glass domes and colourful ornament removed. Nonetheless, Jourdain's ideals, embodied in La Samaritaine and his writing, provided the foundation for much of the thinking of the modern movement.

His son, Francis Jourdain (1876-1958) was a designer, writer and painter.