Le Havre, World Heritage Site

François Premier Chapel: Stained-Glass Window.

Artists at work during the reconstruction

Several artists took part in the reconstruction of the city. Their works are still very much part of the local urban landscape.

Marguerite-Félicité Huré, Saint Joseph’s stained-glass windows

Master glazier (1896-1967), she took part, along with painters Maurice Denis and Georges Desvallières in the rebirth of sacred art in France from 1919. Her joint work with Auguste Perret claims two main projects: Notre-Dame du Raincy (1923) and Saint Joseph’s church in Le Havre (1957),for which she created elongated vertical windows containing geometrical openings (or claustras) whose color mix produces a vast “symphonic poem”. The pieces of coloured glass where mouth-blown in the “antique” manner, a method revived in the nineteenth century. The pieces of glass follow a symbolic system ordering colours and shapes according to the research effected by the Atelier d’Art Sacré (the Sacred Art Workshop) on theological virtues. The studio Auguste Perret built for Marguerite Huré at Boulogne-Billancourt can still be seen.

Bas-reliefs

On the initiative of Robert Le Chevalier, head of the Saint François cooperative (war victims committee), the bas-reliefs attempt to evoke the history of the city putting forward its “worthies” in the fields of commerce, naval life, Arts or Industry, placing them on the front of reconstructed buildings.

In 1951, Le Havre Libre, local newspaper, and Paris Normandie in 1952 print headlines such as “the anonymous blocks of Avenue Foch to become real houses “, and “sculpture to mark the reconstructed blocks of Le Havre with history”.

Henri-Georges Adam (1904-1967) – The signal

Designed as early as 1955, the oblong sculpture pierced in its centre, is a mass of concrete and marble and Adam’s first monumental piece. Outside in the open air, it links the sky to the sea, on the terrace of the new Museum. Opposite the signal house, light-houses and radars, all sentinels looking out towards the high seas, its eye looks towards the sparkling sea water, the rushing waves, the brief passage of a container-ship.

“Designed for the site, it knots and ties the architecture to the sea. Eye of time. Polyhedron, irregular by accident. Throw of the dice. A fixed form of mobile elements in continuous time. Mobile form of fixed elements in immobile time. Neon sign of the Museum. Banner of the port. Ensign of sea monsters and lifeboats. Opening onto the imaginary radar of the mind. Off to the planets within Boudin’s skies. Projection of anything possible. Projection of a new world where the sculpted form, appearing of its own accord, is a catalysis of the elements around it, creating the atmosphere of the place. My deepest thanks go to the people of Le Havre and yourself for wanting and giving life to this experience”.

Letter from H.G. Adam to Reynold Arnould, then curator of the city Museum of Le Havre.

Deeply believing in God, Henri-Georges Adam designed The signal not only as the coat of arms of a maritime city but also as a benevolent Neptune, thus giving a spiritual dimension to the space around the ocean gate the city represents. His monumental sculptures can be found in many French towns: in Thonon, La Grande Etrave (The Great Bow); in Vichy, Le Grand Cactus (The Big Cactus) and also La Flèche (The Arrow) in the Beaux-Arts Museum in Rouen.

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