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Who was one of the most versatile artists of the Art Nouveau Movement?

Victor Horta
Vincent Van Gogh
Emile Gallé
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Art Nouveau
by Uta Hasekamp

Art Nouveau was a phenomenon with many faces. Between 1890 and 1910, artists developed a variety of styles from the plant-like forms of the Belgian-French Art Nouveau to the ornamentation of the Viennese Secession. They were all striving to create a new, modern style and pursued a comprehensive renewal of art and, in some countries, a renewed national identity.


                                   
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LATEST SPOTLIGHT_________________________________

Nature Comes Alive in Glass
by Bob Brooke


 

During the last two decades of the 19th century, French glassmakers became more perceptive and creative, expanding their artistic expression through nature. The result was some of the most beautiful art glass ever made.

Five glass artists stood at the top of the Art Nouveau Movement----Emile Gallé, Auguste and Antonin Daum, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and René Lalique.

Emile Gallé
Nature heavily influenced Emile Gallé's glasswork, even his earliest pieces, whick incorporated enameled floral motifs painted upon clear glass. He was an avid botanist his entire life, collecting plants, flowers, and insects to study and draw inspiration.

Gallé traveled throughout Europe studying works at museums and private institutions, gaining insight from ancient glass antiquities to Japonesque masterpieces, and everything in between. But it was Gallé’s trip to the British Museum in 1871 that altered the course of his career. Enamored by the famed ancient Roman cameo glass artifact known as the Portland Vase, the artist began experimenting with cameo glass upon his return to Nancy.

Color was a dominant force in all his designs. Galle’s method of layering various colors of glass and exposing the base layers via precise acid etching gave birth to some of the French glass master’s most memorable creations. Layering metallic foils between the colored glass prompted the discovery of exceptional highlighting effects that breathed life into Gallé’s naturalistic motifs, and the incorporation of air bubbles into the molten glass added a textural element never before seen in the medium. He even continued in his experimentations with enamel, mixing it with metal oxides to create absolutely breathtaking, glistening effects that were revealed only in the final firing.

Gallé had the ability to create the most picturesque landscapes and give life to any flora or fauna within his glass art. His showing at the 1878 Exhibition Universelle and a decade later at the 1889 Exhibition catapulted Gallé to international fame. His organic, flowing patterns captivated a global audience and gave relevance to the growing Art Nouveau Movement.

Gallé was the most outstanding artist and technician among the French glassmakers of the late 19th century. He based his early pieces on historical themes, with enameling and gilding on transparent green, white or amber glass. Around 1884, these gave way to realistically drawn flowers and insects, still on transparent glass. During the following years, Galle created some of his most original work in opaque colored glass in a wide variety of techniques. He signed all the pieces. During the 1890s, Galle changed his views about mass production and cut his designs using acid, instead of on the wheel, into the superimposed different colored layers of glass, a technique called “cameo glass.”

Auguste and Antonin Daum
Nancy was also the home of the renowned Daum family glassworks. Lawyer Jean Daum founded the company in 1878. He had no glassmaking experience but acquired the floundering Sainte-Catherine glassworks as payment for his legal services.

During this time, the glassworks produced mainly watch crystals and glass tableware. But Daum’s lack of both business and technical experience severely affected the business, that is until his eldest son Auguste joined the company in 1879. With no experience in glassmaking or the industry, Auguste sought to learn everything he could about running the glassworks effectively, thus saving the business.

It would be his brother Antonin, who joined the family business in 1887, that would bring the artistic influence the Daum firm needed to truly excel. A student of the leading Lunéville and École Centrale schools of design and engineering, the youngest Daum actively sought to incorporate Art Nouveau creativity into the firm’s glass.

Daum’s participation in the 1889 Paris Exhibition Universelle, where they showcased their table glass amongst the masterpieces of Gallé and other leading art glass creators was a tremendous inspiration to Antonin, who immediately began working on his own designs. Free-blown, voluminous vases, lamps and other vessels enveloped in rich cameos of florals, animals, and even the themes of celebrated operas of the day were the focus of Daum’s production. The utilization of hydrofluoric acid and glass layering techniques allowed the firm’s artisans to create a wide range of visual effects. With Auguste at the helm of the business and Antonin directing the creative side, Daum soon proved to be a dominant force during the Art Nouveau.

The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair was the stage upon which the Daum brothers would showcase their cameo creations with exceptional success. The firm’s acclaim grew throughout their showings at subsequent international exhibitions, with the Paris Exhibition Universelle of 1900 being their most triumphant.

Some of the most gifted glass artisans worked for Daum, including Victor Marchand, Jacques Grüber and Eugéne Gall, who would remain with the Daum company for over 40 years. With the influx of such superb talent, Antonin established an in-house design school to train glass craftsmen and to research new techniques, such as the use of gilt between layers of glass, powdered glass to achieve textural effects and the inventive use of enamels to provide dimension and additional color.

One of Daum’s most impressive techniques was the use of pâte de verre, or “glass paste.” The method is essentially a “lost wax” casting process that uses powdered glass blended with a binding agent to create the paste that was then placed in a mold and fired, ultimately achieving dynamic shapes that can vary in thickness and display intense color.

When Gallé founded the École de Nancy in 1901, the Daum brothers joined the fold and greatly contributed to the advancement of the Art Nouveau style. Upon Gallé’s death just three years later, Daum effectively continued in the founder’s footsteps and became the driving force behind the movement.

The Nancy firm of August and Jean Daum (1853–1909 and 1825–85) has been rather over-shadowed by Galle's reputation. Besides vases and table-services painted with landscapes or vignettes en camaieu in the 18th-century style, the firm adopted in 1893 the technique of acid-cut cameo glass, decorated with sprays of flowers, fruit, wild grasses or landscapes. Although some pieces do closely resemble the work of Galle, the range of colors is different; as they used a large amount of orange and yellow.

Louis Comfort Tiffany
One of the most well known names in Art Nouveau the decorative arts is Louis Comfort Tiffany. His glass stands hands out glassmakers of the time.

Founded in 1878 by Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of Tiffany & Company founder and jeweler Charles Lewis Tiffany, Tiffany Studios stood at the forefront of American Art Nouveau. Though he worked in nearly every decorative medium imaginable, it was his glass creations that made his famous.

Well trained in painting and design, Tiffany traveled extensively throughout Europe and Northern Africa gaining inspiration from the bounteous decorative styles he encountered along the way. By 1878, Tiffany & Company had gained great acclaim at the International Exhibitions for its innovative silver, with Louis often accompanying his father and exhibiting his own paintings. Here the younger Tiffany encountered the works of European glass masters. He would then learn to master the Art Nouveau design that captured this aesthetic movement.

Tiffany first began his experiments in glass in 1875. Focusing upon stained glass, the gifted artist found methods by which to give his glass a unique appearance, imitating folds, texture and overall consistency to craft his famed and majestic Art Nouveau stained glass windows that soon became known as "paintings in glas." Tiffany quickly became the leading art glass creator in the United States. His clients included Mark Twain, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and even the White House.



Tiffany experimented constantly. Perhaps his most iconic discovery occurred in 1881 when he created his first pieces of “favrile” glass. Inspired by the delicate iridescence found in specimens of ancient Roman glass, Tiffany set out to replicate the look with outstanding results. Termed “favrile” or “handcrafted”, his technique produced freely shaped forms distinguished by an almost glowing iridescence that possessed an uncanny dichroic trait that separated his creations from those of any other glass artist in the world. From remarkable floriform vases to his most recognizable lamps, his favrile glass art allowed people to enjoy the beauty of nature year round.

René Lalique
René Lalique learned the arts of jewelry making, designing and sculpting, all skills of which would influence his future glass masterpieces. But he longed for a greater artistic challenge, and by 1900, he expanded his horizons into the realm of glass. In just 10 short years, Lalique transformed into a master glassmaker, creating everything from vases and car hood ornaments, to chandeliers and perfume bottles. His motifs are said to have focused on “females, flora and fauna”, highlighting asymmetrical, undulating lines and sensuous curves encountered in the natural world.

Lalique incorporated glass in his exquisite gold and enameled jewelry Galle naturally had many imitators and Delatte, Arsall, Le Verre Francais, D. Christian & Sohn, Muller Freres and Michel are only a few. Auguste Legras, working in the Paris suburb of St. Denis, also came under his influence, but his work can be distinguished by its pastel shades, often on an attractive creamy base. The glass of the Cristallerie de Pantin has rather flatly drawn flowers enameled and gilt on a frosted ground, or cameo landscapes, and is variously signed `De Vez', `Pantin'or` Mont Joye'.


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