Monday, March 14, 2011

Victor Horta and the Whiplash Curve

In this blog, I have written about painters, sculptors, and printers but never about architects. It was not an oversight. It was because many avant garde architects such as Gaudi and Gehring have been widely recognized. Then, I came across Victor Horta (1861-1947) who has been called, "the key European Art Nouveau Architect."

Born in Ghent, Belgium, Horta was educated in music, art, design and architecture. Early in his career, he began to work with iron and glass - often thought of as hard and angular materials. Horta designs wove them into sinuous shapes for both the exterior and interior.

He designed a few houses, but quickly moved on to designing public buildings. His signature design was the whiplash curves which you can see in the photos here. These have a certain feeling of plant tendrils and became part of
the description of the Art Nouveau period.

After WWI, Horta moved from the curving, sweeping style to a more geometrical one. This evolution would lead to Art Deco and Modernism. However, modernist felt no connection to Horta's Art Nouveau style. Several buildings were demolished in the 1960s.

UNESCO stepped in and preserved some of Horta's houses and buildings as World Heritage Sites. We are lucky to have these beautiful designs. So, if you're ever in Belgium...


  1. I never heard of him. I can clearly see Klimt and Tiffany in his designs. Did he influence them or was it the reverse? I'd love to see those buildings.

  2. Love Art Nouveau. Thanks for giving me more history about that period. Jane

  3. Loved your blog about Horta....I have to say I'm crazy about art deco, what a pity a few of his buildings were demolished. Jackie

  4. Wonderful design! I'd never heard of him, though your blog encouraged me to read further. I was intrigued that he was famous enough to be on Belgian money! He also laid the plans for the Brussels-Central train station... curiously modernist, but still traces of the "whiplash curve" in the facade. Thanks for putting us onto him!

  5. Thanks, Birdie. So happy to know that your interest was piqued to find out more about him.RA