This year, the Budapest the ensemble of Alexander Bigot’s monumental architectural ceramics can be seen for the first time since the Paris World's Fair of 1900. The ensemble was acquired with government funds by the director Jenő Radisics at the Paris Universal Exposition 1900 and has never been on display so far. Alexander Bigot’s pavilion constructed of Art Nouveau architectural sample pieces –wall revetments, fireplace frames, columns with plastic decorations, brackets, friezes- was bought entirely by the museum and was transported to Budapest after the exposition. The objects were deposited in the huge basement of the Museum of Applied Arts. The designers of the architectural ceramics were such outstanding French architects and sculptors of the period like Jules Lavirotte (1864-1924) or Paul Jouve (1878-1973). Similar pieces of architectural ceramics displayed at the exhibition can be found on facades of several Art Nouveau apartment buildings and palaces in Paris even today.
The present exhibition hints at the future of the museum, expressing the desire that many hidden artworks in the collection, such as these, should be displayed – something which will only be possible after the reconstruction of the building designed by Ödön Lechner.
The Ceramics Factory
Alexandre Bigot (Mer, 1862 – Paris, 1927) established his ceramics manufactory at Mer in 1894, after his extensive studies of the natural sciences, chemistry and physics, and with enthusiasm for far-eastern as well as modern ceramic arts.
His factory was producing stoneware fired at high temperatures and known as grès flammés. This material was most suitable for the decoration and panelling of the facades of modern ferro-concrete buildings, but the company also made various dishes and vases. The surface of the ceramics was usually covered with special glazes, including crystalline glazes, which often flowed down on the surface of the plastic forms. He also created special matte glazes, using acids to corrode the surface. At its heyday, the Bigot factory had about hundred and fifty workers.
Products of Bigot
The rich selection of products by the Bigot factory was listed in their catalogue, issued in second edition in 1902. They offered frost-resisting glazed and unglazed tiles for façade revetments, roof tiles, including ridge-tiles of various shapes, as well as large variety of architectural sculpture, such as columns, pillars, lunettes, lintels, banisters, arches, friezes and parapets. Ceramics for interior use were also quite varied. Flat tiles for floors and walls were often designed with multi-tile ornaments of various shapes. Their ceramics, which were suitable for decorating large surfaces, their fireplaces as well as ornamental vessels were made for the elegant urban interiors of the bourgeoisie.
The Magic of Bigot
The elegant and well-shaped objects by Bigot, decorated with varied figural and floral motifs and covered with colourful glazes of warm tone provide a unique aesthetic experience. Similar pieces to the ones shown in the present exhibition can be found on the facades of several Parisian apartment buildings and palaces. The architectural ceramics of Alexandre Bigot were made in various historical styles as well as in the style of Art Nouveau, but he never really constrained himself to one style. For him, the challenge was the material and the glazes. The magic of his ceramic objects lies in the glazes which cover his daring and exotic shapes, often flowing down or intentionally blotty, other times appearing in deep tones, or gleaming in thick layers. Most architectural elements used in the pavilion assembled for the Paris World’s Fair were designed for two buildings by Jules Aimé Lavirotte from Lyon (1864-1924), both still standing in the seventh district of Paris.