Gabriel Argy-Rousseau was a technical and artistic innovator whose chosen medium was pâte-de-verre and whose preferred form was hollow wares decorated in low relief. His work is characterised by simplicity and geometry, inspired by nature and ancient Greek design.
Argy-Rousseau became fascinated by pâte-de-verre and by 1920 had established his own company – Les Pâte-de-Verre d’Argy Rousseau. His working practise began with drawings from which he made plaster models which he painted with lacquer varnish and then covered in wax. He made sectional moulds secured with cords and the pâte-de-verre was his own formula composed of feldspar, kaolin and boric acid ground into a powder, with metallic oxides being added to provide the colour. The powder was combined with water and applied to the mould with a brush. When dry a coating of tragacanth was painted on to give a extra hardness and the interior was then filled with asbestos to help prevent it from collapsing while in the kiln. No mould could be reused and as a result of the production method each piece was unique, having distinctions in composition, paste and colouration.
Jean Daum bought a failing glass factory in Nancy in France and in 1887 his son Auguste took over running it. He was joined two years later by his brother Antonin. The Daum brothers were near neighbours of Emile Gallé and shared many of his priorities for reinvigorating the nation through the arts, as well as for studying nature and experimenting with techniques. They employed leading designers who each contributed a different dimension to the creative development of Daum glass. Jacques Gruber favoured oriental forms, Henri Bergé brought his deep love of nature and skill in both botanical and landscape drawing, while Almeric Walter introduced new techniques including adding inclusions to the glass and surface finishes.
The Daums business was entrepreneurial and experimental, and always focussed on producing high quality glass. Decoration was not just applied to the surface of the glass but was also in the glass itself.
Emile Gallé, the French Art Nouveau genius, took over his father’s faience factory and soon afterwards found himself captivated by the possibilities of glass. Having sought to learn from leading makers of the day, he then set about creating his own works. He combined his fascination with Japan culture with a keen observation of nature. He was passionate about the revitalisation of the arts believing that it would assist in the renewal of the whole nation of France including the economy.
Many of the works that bear the name Gallé were actually produced after his death first under the instructions of his wife Henriette and then, after her death, under the management of Paul Perdrizet, who was married to Emile Gallé’s daughter Lucile. Much of Gallé’s work was cameo glass in which he combined colours. The pieces are works of art in their own right and do not rely on the need for flowers of foliage to be present when displaying them.
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