• la villa vue depuis le jardin nord, villa Noailles © Cyrille Weiner, 2009
  • la villa vue depuis le parvis, villa Noailles © Olivier Amsellem, 2008
    jardin Gabriel Guévrékian, villa Noailles © Olivier Amsellem, 2008
  • hall de la partie initiale, villa Noailles © Olivier Amsellem, 2008
    le parvis vu depuis le salon de lecture, villa Noailles © Olivier Amsellem, 2008
  • le salon rose, villa Noailles © Olivier Amsellem, 2008
    hall de la partie initiale, villa Noailles © Olivier Amsellem, 2008
  • le parvis vu depuis le salon de lecture, villa Noailles © Olivier Amsellem, 2008
  • terrasse de la piscine, villa Noailles © Olivier Amsellem, 2008
    chambre de plein air, villa Noailles © Olivier Amsellem, 2008
  • vue de la terrasse de la chambre d'ami, villa Noailles © Olivier Amsellem, 2008
    terrasse de la chambre d'ami, villa Noailles © Olivier Amsellem, 2008
  • terrasse de la chambre d'ami, villa Noailles © Olivier Amsellem, 2008
    le salon rose, villa Noailles © Olivier Amsellem, 2008
  • le parvis, villa Noailles © Olivier Amsellem, 2008
    la villa vue depuis le parvis, villa Noailles © Olivier Amsellem, 2008
  • jardin Gabriel Guévrékian, villa Noailles © Olivier Amsellem, 2008
    le parvis vu depuis les terrasses, villa Noailles © Olivier Amsellem, 2008
  • le parvis vu depuis les terrasses, villa Noailles © Olivier Amsellem, 2008
    vue de la terrasse de la chambre d'ami, villa Noailles © Olivier Amsellem, 2008
hyères 27
a chronicle of modernity horaires

AN IMMOBILE OCEAN LINER
The villa Noailles features as one of the very first modernist style buildings constructed in France. Designed in December 1923 and inhabited from January 1925, the original villa was built for Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles by the architect Rob Mallet-Stevens and exhibits the founding tenets of the rationalist movement: practicality, a purification of decorative features, roofs, terraces, light, hygiene... The extensions, which continued right up until 1933, along with the exceptional development of the surrounding property (courtyard and gardens), turned a modest holiday home into a true 1800m2, immobile ocean liner: fifteen master bedrooms all with en-suite bathrooms, a swimming pool, a squash court, a hairdressing salon, a resident gym instructor, etc. Features such as the clocks, which are all controlled by a central system, the retracting bay-windows and the mirrored windows, all contribute to the modernity of the site. A heliotropic house, overlooking the bay of Hyères, the villa Noailles celebrated a new lifestyle which favoured body and nature. The interior decoration called upon an impressive list of prominent figures: Louis Barillet for the stain glass windows, Pierre Chareau, Eileen Gray, Djo-Bourgeois, and Francis Jourdain for the furniture, Gabriel Guévrékian for the cubist garden, and Mondrian, Henri Laurens, Jacques Lipchitz, Constantin Brancusi, and Alberto Giacometti for the art works.


PATRONS OF MODERN ARTS
Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, both from prestigious families, were married in 1923. Art collectors and enthusiasts of modernism, following the commission of their villa they became shrewd patrons of the arts, admiring all that was new and risky. They were responsible for any number of discoveries or significant influences in the work of the artists they sponsored: whether it was painting (Salvador Dali), sculpture (Lipchitz, Giacometti), music (francis Poulenc, Igor Markevitch), or interior design (Chareau, Jean-Michel Frank). They were also cinema enthusiasts and financed three masterpieces: in 1929, Man Ray’s surrealist film, which was filmed in the villa, “Les Mystères du Château du Dé”, in 1930 Jean Cocteau’s first film, “Le Sang d’un Poète”, and Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali’s second film, “L’Âge d’Or”. This latter work provoked a terrible scandal and was censured for the next fifty years. Charles de Noailles, who was passionate about flowers and was president of the French Horticultural Society, as well as being the author of a significant book on the flora of the Mediterranean, spent his later years dedicated towards the improvement and maintenance of his gardens at Hyères, Grasse and Fontainebleau. Marie-Laure, whilst at first shy, after the scandal of “L’Âge d’Or” she became an eccentric socialite whose intelligence and causticity made her all the rage in artistic circles. Under the name of Marie Laure, she too became a painter and poet. She is fondly remembered by many of the local people in Hyères.


THE ARCHITECT
Robert Mallet Stevens (called “Rob” 1886-1945) was a graduate of the Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture, a famed institution renowned for its rationalist pedagogy. He was influenced very early on by the Austrian group of interior designers and architects of the Wiener Werkstate, who married artistic sensitivity with exacting design. His work as a designer, his talent as a theoretician, and his projects resulted in him being lauded in the intellectual circles of Paris around 1910. After the First World War his designs for film sets established his reputation. Following his work on the villa Noailles and his involvement at the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts, he received a number of commissions (Paul Poiret’s house in Mézy, the casino in St Jean de Luz). In 1927, in Paris’ 16th district, he inaugurated a street which he had both conceived and which bore his own name. At this same time, his furniture and designs (for the Magasins Bally) stood out due to their elegance and modernity. As a talent spotter who enjoyed collaborating with other artists and was curious towards foreign movements, he appropriately became the founder of the Union of Modern Artists in 1929. This group put forward a transversal approach to the problematics of construction and interior design. In 1932 Paul Cavrois, an industrialist from the north of France, offered him the opportunity to design a large residence in Croix. Mallet-Stevens was also responsible for the interior of this domestic masterpiece, equipped with the most modern of fittings. The villa Cavrois has  been bought by the French state and is reopen from June 2015. After a design for a remarkable fire station in Paris (1935), Mallet-Stevens conceived a series of important pavilions for the 1937 international exhibition of Paris. He emigrated to the United States in 1939, where he died in 1945 after an operation. Often misunderstood, he slowly fell into obscurity. Rediscovered at the end of the 1970s, he is now considered as one of the most important architects of the interwar period.


RESTORATION
The villa Noailles suffered rapidly from the experimental nature of its construction, in particular that of the waterproofing of the terrace roofs. Furthermore, from as early as the 1950s, the villa, which had become Marie-Laure de Noailles summer residence, gradually lost its initial appearance. On her death, in 1970, the furniture and art works were shared amongst her heirs. Charles de Noailles thus offered that the town of Hyères buy the entirety of the property. The municipality of Bénard, recognising the building’s heritage importance, acquired it in 1973 and opened the grounds to the public. The Villa Noailles was then bounced from one project to the next, and almost fell into a state of abandonment, despite being listed on the Supplementary Inventory of Historic Monuments in 1975. Starting in 1986, a restoration project was initiated under the influence of mayor Ritondale’s council and Jack Lang’s government department for culture and heritage. Restoration work started in the original building in 1989 where, as early as 1990, exhibitions were held: Noailles and the Modernists, Alix Grès, The Russian Ballets, Karl Lagerfeld... In 1996, the Association of the International Festival of Fashion Arts in Hyères was given the responsibility for managing events at the villa, and thus became the Association Villa Noailles - FIAMH. The association proposed a return to the Noailles’ traditions of discovering and supporting young artists. Consequently, the association participates in their projects, helps them to produce their pieces, puts them in contact with one another etc.. One component of this annual cultural programme is devoted to the history of 20th Century art. A second phase of restoration and conversion started in 1997 with the sports rooms (pool room, gymnasium, squash courts) and was completed in the summer of 2003. Since 2007 four bedrooms have been converted in order to receive resident artists, the result of commissions placed with the designers François Azambourg, Florence Doléac, David Dubois and the Bless. The association and its events as a whole unite the four partners interested in its cultural influence: the French State, the Region, the Department, the Town, and since 2003 the Agglomeration Community of Toulon Provence Méditerranée. It is under the administrative supervision of this last entity that the villa Noailles has been placed, and thus it now figures alongside other major cultural installations of the Toulon area: Châteauvallon, the Opera house in Toulon, or the Villa Tamaris...


BIBLIOGRAPHY
Art et Décoration
modern art’s monthly review, Albert Lévy editions, July 1928
Rob Mallet Stevens architecte
D. Deshoulières, H. Jeanneau, M.Culot, B. Buyssens
Belgium, archives d’architecture moderne editions, 1980
La villa Noailles
C. Briolle, A. Fuzibet, G. Monnier
Marseille, Parenthèses editions, 1990
Noailles et les Modernes
François Carrassan, Olivier Rometti, Richard et Guy Barsotti
L’Or des Iles editions, 1990
La villa Noailles
Karl Lagerfeld’s photographies, Steidl editions, 1995
La villa Noailles, une aventure moderne
collectif, Flammarion, 2001
L’étrange destin de la villa Noailles
François Carrassan, L’Yeuse editions, 2003

CATALOG OF FILMS
Biceps et Bijoux, Jacques Manuel, 1927
Les Mystères du Château du Dé, Man Ray, 1929
L’Âge d’Or, Luis Buñuel & Salvador Dali, 1930
Le Sang d’un Poète, Jean Cocteau, 1930
Charles et Marie-Laure de Noailles, Patrick Mimouni, 1990
Robert Mallet-Stevens, Séraphin Ducellier, 2003