About the Exhibition


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Bracket and Inn Sign, “A L’H D’OR”
French
Late 18th century 
Wrought iron and rolled iron, cut and embossed, with traces of gilding
Monogram in center: DM
Réunion des Musées Métropolitains, Rouen, Normandy, LS.4532
© Agence La Belle Vie – Nathalie Landry

Iron is one of the most common and versatile elements found on earth. Used for three millennia as a primary material in the creation of a wide variety of objects both practical and decorative, iron is prized for its combination of malleability and strength. Until recent times, wrought-iron objects—those that are hand-forged and shaped—were ubiquitous.
 
In the mid-nineteenth century, Jean-Louis Henri Le Secq Destournelles (1818–1882), an artist who studied painting in Paris and Rome and became one of the first photographers in France, began to collect iron objects, including locks, keys, balcony grilles, and signs. These wrought iron objects, often discarded as the streets and buildings of Paris and other cities were modernized, fell out of fashion and were replaced by new materials. Henri’s son, Henri Le Secq des Tournelles (1854–1925, who changed the spelling of his last name), continued his father’s passion and in 1920 gave their large and varied collection to the city of Rouen, in Normandy, France, creating what is today one of the world’s most important museums of historical wrought iron.
 
The Musée Le Secq des Tournelles occupies a repurposed gothic church in the center of Rouen, its interior magnificently arrayed with thousands of wrought-iron objects. The Art of Iron features thirty-six objects from the museum that invite us to marvel at the creativity and technical skill of their makers and to reflect on bygone ways of life. 
 
The Art of Iron is co-organized by the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, and the Réunion des Musées Métropolitains, Rouen, Normandy. 
 
Generous contributors to the exhibition include Sylvia and Leonard Marx and the Selz Foundation, with additional support from Richard and Carol Seltzer