Metropolitain (Paris Metro) 833mm x 208mm steel sign
Between 1900 and 1913, Hector Guimard was responsible for the first generation of entrances to the underground stations of the Paris Métro. His Art Nouveau designs in cast iron and glass dating mostly to 1900, and the associated lettering that he also designed, created what became known as the Métro style (style Métro) and popularized Art Nouveau. However, arbiters of style were scandalized and the public was also less enamored of his more elaborate entrances. In 1904 his design for the Opéra station at Place de l'Opéra was rejected and his association with the Métro ended; many of his station entrances have been demolished, including all three of the pavilion type (at Bastille and on Avenue de Wagram at Étoile). Those that remain are now all protected historical monuments, one has been reconstituted, and some originals and replicas also survive outside France.
The Guimard entrances received a generally warm reception, with Salvador Dalí calling them "those divine entrances to the Métro, by grace of which one can descend into the region of the subconscious of the living and monarchical aesthetic of tomorrow". By way of what became known as le style Métro, they popularized Art Nouveau, which had been a style known largely to connoisseurs of the avant garde.
However, critics and many of the public were hostile to the libellules in particular, and criticized the green as "German" and the lettering as "un-French" and, according to critic André Hallays in Le Temps, "confus[ing to] little children who are trying to learn their letters and ... stupefy[ing to] foreigners". On the Champs-Élysées, for example at Marbeuf (now part of Franklin D. Roosevelt), simple stone walls with discreet carved signage were used instead, and a plain design was also used at Bourse. Unhappiness with Guimard's 1904 design for the Opéra station, described in Le Figaro as having "contorted ramps" and "enormous frog-eye lamps", and increasing costs led to the CMP severing its relationship with him. The entrance at Opéra was instead designed by Joseph-Marie Cassien-Bernard [fr], in classical marble. The CMP bought Guimard's molds and rights and a total of 141 of his entrances were ultimately produced, the last in 1913.
The CMP continued in later years to replace some of Guimard's designs with more sober entrances by Cassien-Bernard, often a plain balustrade in white stone, for example at Gare de l'Est, Madeleine, Montparnasse, and Saint-François-Xavier.Modernization beginning after World War I also led to the demolition of many, especially the more elaborate. Shortly before World War II, it was suggested that those remaining should be scrapped for their metal. Art Nouveau had only briefly been in fashion and only became popular once more in the last quarter of the 20th century.