Biography

As an architect and interior designer, skilled in assemblage for 35 years, Georges Hoentschel (1855-1915) took over as head of the famous furnishing firm Maison Leys. At the turn of the century, he worked for all informed Parisians who were building their mansions (Jacques Doucet, Robert de Montesquiou, Ganay and others), but also for clients abroad like the King of Greece and the Emperor of Japan. He moved into 58, Boulevard Flandrin where there was a large garden with a house and a mansion next to each other. GH completed major reconstruction, turning the mansion into a large exhibition hall, nearly 7 metres in height, with a big 35 metres glass roof, stretching from the Boulevard Flandrin to the Rue Théry (today the Rue Montevideo) to house his collections. He also had some stables built. He married Antoinette Eugénie Desaille, who gave him two children – Françoise in 1901 and Jean-Claude in 1902. He put together an extensive collection of works of art that he would sell to the American magnate John Pierpont Morgan and part of which is now on view in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He designed the Pavillon de l’Union des Arts Décoratifs for the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900. Four years later, he was responsible for the interior design and furniture of public buildings and accommodation at the International Exhibition in St. Louis, Missouri in the United States, a global event that finally established his reputation as an interior designer on an international level. He travelled to Canada and was given orders (Erraruziz, Vanderbilt and others). He included ceramics he had made with a team from Jean Carriès in his designs. A central figure in the Paris of the Belle Époque, he frequented Proust’s world. A loyal friend, he was much praised in the press when he died.

Maison Leys - Georges Hoentschel

1855

Birth of Georges Hoentschel in Paris (parents – Charles Théophile Hoentschel and Catherine Emilie Leys).

View of the interior Maison Leys

 

Bureau de J. Pierpont Morgan - Georges Hoentschel

1860-1865

Death of his father when he was aged only 9. His mother moved into her cousin, Ernest Leys’ home. He owned a well-known upholstery and woodworking at 3, Place de la Madeleine. The family lived at 11, Cité du Retiro (a place people like to retire to). Many craftsmen worked in this area, a little away from the hurly-burly of Paris streets. GH learnt the business from the age of 12 onwards. Through the years he formed his assured taste, spent his time among beautiful things in the Ali Baba’s cave of Leys’ storerooms and exhibition rooms.

John Pierpont Morgan built himself a property on Manhattan Island where he began his large art collection.

Pierpont Morgan’s office.

Georges Hoentschel et Jean Carriès - Georges Hoentschel

1880-1892

The start of his friendship with Jean Carriès that lasted up until the ceramicist’s death in 1892.

In 1882 Ernest Leys was entrusted the Maison Leys business at 3, Place de la Madeleine to the young GH.

Death of Ernest Leys (1892). Georges Hoentschel bought the business. He become an interior designer to answer the growing demand amongst his contemporaries, particularly those with large fortunes who were building mansions for themselves. Paris attracted the best luxury craftsmen and enjoyed great prestige in Europe and throughout the world. From that point on he employed 50 specialist workers.

Georges Hoentschel and Jean Carriès.

Claude Monet - Georges Hoentschel

1898

Armand Rateau started working in Georges Hoentschel’s workshops before setting up for himself in 1905 and making his own name. GH became friends with many celebrities of the period: Proust, Robert de Montesquiou, Whistler, Boldini, the Comte and Comtesse Greffulhe. He designed large interiors for Parisian high society (Gramont, Ganay and others).

Mariage - Georges Hoentschel

1899-1902

On 12th June he married Antoinette Eugénie Desaille in the cathedral at Troyes (birth of his daughter Françoise in 1901 and his son Jean-Claude in 1902). In 1900 he designed the Pavillon des Arts Décoratifs for the Paris Universal Exhibition.

Photographie Georges Hoentschel avec ses deux enfants - Georges Hoentschel

1903

He moved into 58, Boulevard Flandrin where there was a large garden with a house and a mansion next to each other. GH completed major reconstruction, turning the mansion into a large exhibition hall, nearly 7 metres in height, with a big 35 metres glass roof, stretching from the Boulevard Flandrin to the Rue Théry (today the Rue Montevideo). The space this created housed his collections. He also had some stables built.

 Georges Hoentschel and his two children, Cité du Retiro (you can see “La débâcle par temps gris” by Claude Monet in the background).

Affiche Exposition Internationale de Saint-Louis du Missouri - Georges Hoentschel

1904

Georges Hoentschel was responsible for the interior design and furniture of public buildings and accommodation at the International Exhibition in St. Louis, Missouri in the United States, a global event that finally established his reputation as an interior designer at an international level. He travelled to Canada and was given orders (Erraruziz, Vanderbilt and others).

Poster of the Universal Exhibition in Saint-Louis, Missouri in the United States.

Pastel par Jeanniot - Georges Hoentschel

1905

His wife (Toinon) died prematurely. Georges Hoentschel found himself with two children just as his mother had earlier been left alone when he was only 9. This was a turning point in his life. Renovation of the Hotel de Charost, the residence of the British Ambassador in Paris, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, in which George Hoentschel collaborated.

 “Toinon”, Antoinette Eugénie Desaille aged 16, by Jeanniot.

Photographie Otto - Georges Hoentschel

1906-1908

Georges Hoentschel sold three-quarters of his collection to his American friend, John Pierpont Morgan, for the sum of 4 million gold francs of the period. The collections included masterpieces from the Middle Ages and the French Renaissance, furniture and objets d’art from the 18th century, and bronze furnishings. They needed 364 packing cases to hold all of this unique collection that was to form the basis of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Design and furnishing of the couturier Jacques Doucet’s mansion at 19, Rue Spontini, to hold his 18th century collections.

Georges Hoentschel – photograph by Otto Wegener, 1900.

Collection Met - Georges Hoentschel

1912-1914

Sale of Jacques Doucet’s 18th century collection. Pierpont Morgan had the Hoentschel collection, that had only got as far as England, loaded on to the Titanic. At the last minute the magnate changed his mind and cancelled the loading.  On 14th April 1912 at 11.40pm (local time) the transatlantic liner hit an iceberg. It sank on 15th April at 2.20am off Newfoundland.

Appearance of Marcel Proust’s novel « Du côté de chez Swann » (1913).

3rd August 1914 Germany declared war on France.

Louis XIV room. Presentation of the Georges Hoentschel collection in 1921 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Photographie - Georges Hoentschel

1915

8th December – Death of Georges Hoentschel (Buried at the Père Lachaise cemetery – Paris)

Georges Hoentschel – 1907.

Catalogue vente - Georges Hoentschel

1919

Georges Hoentschel’s estate – 3 sales at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris.

Catalogue of artworks at the first sale of Georges Hoentschel’s estate at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris – 1919.