Azulejos hidráulicos con motivos florales y geométricos

Decoration on hydraulic tiles: from acanthus flowers to 3D effects

At the end of the nineteenth century, a new type of tile was spreading from France to Spain and America. It was of pressed cement with colour pigmentation, applied according to some drawing templates, using stencils and hydrated with water before drying. With the new decorative possibilities, easy installation, low cost and durability of the hydraulic tile, it would easily thrive in a new social context of economic and urban expansion, influenced by modern artistic trends.

The first hydraulic floors imitated marble and ceramic tiles with coloured pastes. Acanthus leaves and thistles were arranged in repetitive patterns, on one or several symmetry axes, emulating carpets or tapestries with natural geometric motifs in entrance halls, living rooms in private homes, and hallways and communal areas of health resorts and hotels…

Art books inspired designers to create classic Romanesque style mosaic tiles, in palatial homes, civil architecture or in multi-dwelling buildings. At the beginning of the twentieth century the hydraulic tiles became fashionable for flooring and the use of ceramic tiles declined. The eclectic and historical compositions of this new type of tile are present in many homes. Modernism burst forth with stylised geometric outlines of squares and circles and simple chromatic ranges. And designs with forced perspectives, with seemingly three-dimensional shapes.

A century later, free compositions with natural diagrammatic patterns or geometric ranges again become fashionable for floors and walls. If the hydraulic floor was made of pressed cement, heavy and less resistant to staining, there now exists a hydraulic imitation tile manufactured in porcelain. The Rainbow collection from Pissano is a good example of these old hydraulic tiles, combining modern aesthetics with the durability and quality of the porcelain stoneware. View the catalogue here.

Bravo-Nieto, A. “The hydraulic tile in Spain. Some aspects of its industrial expansion and aesthetic evolution (1867-1960). ABE Journal [En ligne], 8 | 2015, mis en ligne le 15 décembre 2015, consulté le 18 juillet 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/abe.2721
Institut de Promoció Ceràmica, The Hydraulic Tile
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