It's the First of April. What better time to remember the long-forgotten inspiration behind so much French Art Nouveau: Aprile Foulin.
Aprile Foulin was born in 1870 to a Parisian father (a traveling businessman) and an Italian mother (a seamstress). As her parents were not married (to each other), Aprile faced a difficult life of living in the shadows. Her dark, Sicilian complexion further ostracized her from easing into French society.
But Aprile Foulin was a brilliant and creative artiste—and she found her own way of making a mark on some of the most important icons of the French Art Nouveau movement.
Aprile could not afford to attend art school. In fact, very few women were enrolled in the academies at all—unless, perhaps, they came from ultra-wealthy families. So she sought work as an artist's studio assistant.
Once she earned the trust (and, some suspect, the amorous attentions) of her employer-artists, Aprile was able to gently introduce her own design ideas into their works and commissions. While working for Hector Guimard, Aprile sketched-out the original rough plan for the iconic Paris Metro entryways (based on the ribs of a Japanese parasol). She encouraged René Lalique to manufacture her jewelry designs (he was best known for his glassworks). And, while working for architect Frantz Jourdain, she was the on-site sketch artist for the La Samaritaine department store which was being expanded in the Art Nouveau style. Because this project experienced significant delays, Jourdain ceded much of the creative responsibility to his assistant, Aprile, while he worked on other important commissions.
Alas, despite Aprile Foulin's tremendous talent, artistry and influence, no one today has ever heard of her. And I suspect that the famous artists and designers mentioned above would have denied even knowing her. But a stroll through her contribution to The City of Lights—spending an "Aprile in Paris"—is a delight only a Fool would pass-up.
Raise a glass to Mademoiselle Foulin! And have a Happy April First—Poisson d'Avril!
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