Glossary

Emile Gallé

“Truth and Beauty” – Furniture by Emile Gallé “What noble nuances Gallé elicits from the heart of the oak, what harmonious contrast of tones when a leaf stands out from the color of the trunk.” With these poetic words he praises the artisan Émile Gallé (1846-1904) at the time, Marcel Proust was impressed by the empathy and taste with which the artist designed his furniture. The poet was entranced by the subtlety of the works and particularly receptive to the mysteries and moods that, in his eyes, enveloped them like layers. In addition to the imaginative and high-quality craftsmanship, the fascination of Gallé furniture is certainly also due to the fact that – based on the pantheistic world view of its creator – its artistic design is ultimately intended to convey deeper statements about nature and its secrets. Influenced by the Symbolism movement in art and literature, Gallé drew his inspiration from his in-depth study of the plant world. A fact that is not surprising when you know that he initially studied philosophy and botany and regularly published articles on horticulture.

The function of the furniture ultimately played a rather subordinate role for Gallé. For him, these were, first and foremost, signifiers for his natural theories, which were characterized by symbolism. An aspect that is further supported by the fact that he often supplemented the pictorial marquetry of his furniture with quotations from poems by writer friends. In the last decade of the 19th century, ideas emerged in France about a furniture art that would break away from the copying of historical models that had been so successfully cultivated here. However, what emerged now remained virtually untouched by the English, German or Austrian reform movements with their rather constructively clear and simple furniture. The proximity to the precious, valuable furniture of the 18th century should ultimately remain noticeable in the creations of Art Nouveau furniture art. Gallé, who founded the Ecole de Nancy in 1901 – one of the centers of Art Nouveau alongside Paris – is now rightly considered the most striking figure of this movement. He ultimately influenced an entire generation of young artists and provided the impetus for a renewal of industrial art. Not only glass art but also furniture owes much to its influence on the new decorative style. The importance of his work was already known during Gallé’s lifetime and many of his exhibits were purchased for the Museé des Arts Décoratifs and the Museé Luxembourg, among others. In 1885, Gallé was to begin producing luxurious furniture in addition to his factory, which was famous for glass work, and for this purpose he was to engage a number of experienced cabinetmakers, marquetry specialists and wood sculptors. For him, there was no contradiction between the longing for the original, elementary idea of nature expressed in his furniture and a form of production that used the most modern production machines. For Gallé, the logic of form, sensitivity and liveliness of design were the most important characteristics of his furniture. The designs for shapes and decors should always be adapted to the function of the respective object. Over the course of his many years of work with wood as a material, he developed his special views on the design of furniture, which he published in the detailed article “Le mobilier contemporain orné d’après la nature” in the Revue des Arts Décoratifs in 1900. For Gallé, modernity does not mean the introduction of stylistic novelties or merely pretty appearances without deeper content and meaning, as he writes here, but his aim was to design furniture according to the needs of modern people. For Gallé, the combination of the concepts of truth and beauty formed the basis for designing furniture. In his opinion, beauty can be achieved if one pays attention to the laws of growth of nature, its structures and fundamental principles with a lot of empathy, because nature offers endless possibilities in its diversity. The basic structural elements of the furniture should not be covered up by details, the connection points should not be concealed, but rather modeled true to life. According to Gallé, to solve this problem, one should observe how the branches of a plant grow out of the stem, how leaves attach to the branch, or how the flower is connected to the stem.

Furniture designed according to these guidelines is a mirror of life and places the truth of nature above any artificial eclecticism. In the smooth surfaces of his furniture, Gallé saw a kind of unpainted canvas on which he could depict floral themes through the sophisticated combination of different colored woods. He was particularly enthusiastic about marquetry techniques and used them with great imagination in a quality that had never been seen before. He also supplemented some of these with inserts made of glass or other materials. The writer and symbolist Count Robert de Montesquiou writes about these marquetry images in the sixth chapter of his work “Les Roseaux Pensants”, which he dedicated to Gallé: “From every line of grain a new harmony flows into the eyes. A small depression in the terrain, the course of a stream, a small irregularity in the grain that could come from a branch, becomes a cloud. The marquetry completes the picture. One suspects that one knows the secrets that the heart of a felled tree entrusts to a carpenter like Gallé; the essence of a tree speaks through it.” For Philippe Garner, a profound connoisseur of Émile Gallé’s work, the artist was ultimately a poet who used glass and wood instead of words. His goal with his furniture was to create something that could be touched and felt, three-dimensional works of art that were as poignant and moving and as rich in nuance as poems.

In the smooth surfaces of his furniture, Gallé saw a kind of unpainted canvas on which he could depict floral themes through the sophisticated combination of different colored woods. He was particularly enthusiastic about marquetry techniques and used them with great imagination in a quality that had never been seen before. He also supplemented some of these with inserts made of glass or other materials. The writer and symbolist Count Robert de Montesquiou writes about these marquetry images in the sixth chapter of his work “Les Roseaux Pensants”, which he dedicated to Gallé: “From every line of grain a new harmony flows into the eyes. A small depression in the terrain, the course of a stream, a small irregularity in the grain that could come from a branch, becomes a cloud. The marquetry completes the picture. One suspects that one knows the secrets that the heart of a felled tree entrusts to a carpenter like Gallé; the essence of a tree speaks through it.” For Philippe Garner, a profound connoisseur of Émile Gallé’s work, the artist was ultimately a poet who used glass and wood instead of words. His goal with his furniture was to create something that could be touched and felt, three-dimensional works of art that were just as moving and moving

 

 

 

 

École de Nancy refers to the 1901 association of leading representatives of Art Nouveau in the French city of Nancy. It is characterized above all by the close collaboration between artists, industrialists and merchants. The best-known representative of the style was Émile Gallé. The École de Nancy found particular stylistic inspiration in the forms of living nature. Ornamental identifying marks of the associated artists were, for example, the use of images of thistles, dragonflies or the ginkgo. Already at the time of its founding, the École de Nancy was defined as a connection between artists and the art industry. In keeping with the spirit of the times, it was intended to enable urban centers outside Paris to create an intellectual environment that would be conducive to the teaching and development of industrial art production. In Lorraine in particular, it was intended to build a bridge between the strongly developed industrial base here (particularly metallurgy) and the artisans (carpenters, faience artists, glass artists in glass blowing and crystal processing as well as other arts and crafts areas). By combining artistic skills and commercial patronage, the systematic, industrial production of art was made possible. This approach included both one-off pieces, limited editions and series production. The aim was to appeal to the largest possible, heterogeneous audience with purchasing power at home and abroad

Ecole de Nancy, Maurice Dufrene, Eduard Diot, Georges de Feure, Francois Carabin, Emile Gallé, Daum Nancy, Jaucques Gruber,
Gustave Serrurier-Bovy, Louis Gaillard, Paul Follot, Carlo Bugatti, Tony Selmersheim

Emile Galle Art Nouveau Beistell Tisch, Nancy around 1900,

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