Art Nouveau, Daum, Gallé, Majorelle : these words are among the most sought after on Interencheres, the first French online auction website. After aligning high prices, and thus inspiring counterfeiters, the 1900 style experienced a "crossing of the desert". From now on, it comes back strongly. Flash-back.
In the middle of the 19th century, when profound changes appeared in the society, Art Nouveau claims close collaboration between artists and craftmen. They must pool their know-how and creativity to achieve what is called “industrial art”. It was in Queen Victoria’s England that the movement took on its full scope with the Arts & Crafts, a complete break with the times. A forerunner of Art Nouveau, this blend of modernism, dreaming, orientalism and naturalism conveys the idea that the arts, sciences and industry must be closely associated and accessible to the greatest number. This is the challenge!
In France, Art Nouveau, called «noodle style» by its detractors, is emerging in the provinces, particularly in Nancy, in 1901, with the creation of the "Alliance provinciale des industries d'art", commonly known as the "École de Nancy". These terms refer to the grouping of Lorraine’s artistic industries, artists and craftspeople and art dealers who share the same tendencies. Émile Gallé (1846-1904), master glassmaker and cabinetmaker, will be the first president, replaced at his death by Victor Prouvé (1858-1943), painter, sculptor and engraver.
All the areas of the artistic creation are represented : architecture, cabinet making, binding, ironwork, glassware, ceramics... Complete artists, they unite themselves in the use of diverse and innovative techniques, combining the creation of unique artistic pieces and the production of series at a more affordable cost. Victor Prouvé collaborates with Émile Gallé by offering him marquetry boxes, decorations for glassware and ceramics. The talent of the Japanese artist Hokkai Takashima, who belongs to this movement, will have a considerable influence on his fellow students. These artists are present together for the first time in 1894, during an exhibition organized in the Galeries Poirel in Nancy, and then at the Universal Exhibitions in Paris in 1889 and 1900. The influence of Art Nouveau is intense from 1895 until the beginning of the First World War, when the beginnings of Art Deco were already emerging. Among the leaders stand out the brothers Daum (whose crystal factory was founded in 1878, in Nancy) and Louis Majorelle (1859-1926), creator of furniture (not to be confused with the painter). In 1909, artists from the Ecole de Nancy take part in what will be their last performance, the "Exposition internationale de l'Est de la France" in Nancy. They just lost their leader, Émile Gallé, in 1904.
Art Nouveau is inspired by nature and its curves, with an abundance of plants, flowers and insects. So it is also in the representation of women. He also knows some Chinese and Japanese aesthetic influences. This decorative art evokes sensitivity and poetry. This is not unrelated to the onirism that we find at the same time, in 1900, in poetry and painting. Curves and volutes, sharp lines are opposed to the straight severity of classicism. However, his followers do not reject the earlier styles, especially the Louis XV, but find other forms of expression, a new decorative grammar.
Architecture is undoubtedly the spearhead of Art Nouveau, combining beauty and modernism. It is illustrated in France by Hector Guimard (1867-1942) and in Belgium by Victor Horta (1861-1947), who also designs furniture, rare and expensive today. Spiral rhythms, sculptures, tangles... nothing is left to chance by these creators whose art descends into the street. From this comes the manufacture of interior furniture which, in the same "ideological" vein, must be thought of in a logical and functional construction.
The artists of the Ecole de Nancy follow their master, Émile Gallé, while Louis Majorelie differentiates himself by more sober creations, more technical, combining exotic wood with gilded bronze ornaments that highlight with elegance curves and volutes. The furniture signed Hector Guimard is distinguished by a graphic design based on more aerial lines. This taste for detail, this perfection in drawing, in the choice and in the work of materials come from a craftsmanship of great talent, but of a high cost, far from this ideology of Art Nouveau.
This reflection encourages these artists to open series production workshops. Although this furniture is of unequal interest, it does not overlook the artistic concept of Art Nouveau and defines “art for all”. Exhibitions, shops, exhibition centers, magazines... promote the popularisation of this new style. Siegfried Bing (also known as Samuel Bing, 1838-1905), an art dealer, opens La Maison de l'Art Nouveau in Paris. The architect Hector Guimard designs the construction of a report building in Paris, the Castel Béranger, and the realization in industrial cast iron of the entrances of the Parisian metropolitan, the «Guimard style»!
Between 1900 and 1914, the Art Nouveau style is already subject to criticism, particularly from La Revue des arts décoratifs. From 1910, the decorative arts salons no longer welcomes him. They are already thinking about the Art Deco that would emerge in the 1920s. Yet no one has ever succeeded in burying Art Nouveau, a hybrid between modernism and tradition, a "swan song" before the Great War.
Auctioneer, Jean-Pierre Besch is the founder of the Besch Cannes Auction House. The Art Nouveau is one of his battlegrounds.
"Artistic pieces are popular. The Art Nouveau market has been experiencing a peculiarity for some years that makes it interesting... The exceptional, original pieces of the artistic period, remarkable for their creative side, reach very high prices and make beautiful gains. This is a market that concerns an international clientele of collectors, especially French, Swiss and North American. They are less numerous than in the past, but seize the beautiful pieces before 1914. On the other hand, late works from the post-1914 period are selling at prices that are far from those they reached in the years 1990-2000.”
To be noted :
Auctions : Besch Cannes Auction, November 2 and December 30, 2019 - www.cannesauction.com
The "feuille rongée" (gnarled leaf) is considered one of the twenty-two most accomplished works of Emile Gallé. This large, ribbed vase rests on a pedestal decorated with petals. Its iridescent metallic green tones reveal the depth of amber crystals and sapphire-coloured ladybugs. The signature appears on the body of the vase. It was exhibited at the Musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris in 1903.
H. : 24 cm - W. : 23 cm. Sold by Besch Cannes Auction in 2016.
Sold : 225900€
The "sorbier des oiseleurs" is one of the most spectacular pieces of Daum. This great baluster vase in multi-layered marmorated glass in pink and green tones on a background of violin red and opaque white. It is decorated with leaves and berries of mountain ash taken from the grindstone and chiselled. Two lateral handles extend on the body of the vase in ribbed stems and chiselled. The piece is signed to the grinding wheel, Daum Nancy. It dates back 1902.
H. : 47,5 cm. Sold by Besch Cannes Auction in 2018.
Sold : 115400€