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René Lalique, The Master Jeweller Of Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau

René Lalique, The Master Jeweller Of Art Nouveau

This month we’re partnering with Europeana again to celebrate their fantastic new Art Nouveau season (21 February – 29 May). The season explores the depth and diversity of the influential art movement and features beautiful Art Nouveau jewellery, posters and much more. It is led by a major new exhibition that tells the story of Art Nouveau from its origins to its brilliant heyday, and features fifty artworks from more than twenty museums.

Today we examine the work of the master Art Nouveau jeweller René Lalique.

Brooch in the form of a fool, ca. 1897-1899 René Lalique, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

Brooch in the form of a fool, ca. 1897-1899 René Lalique, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain


‘To seek beauty is a more worthy aim than to display luxury.’ René Lalique

French jeweller René Jules Lalique (1860-1945) was one of Art Nouveau’s most renowned craftsmen. Trained in Paris and London, Lalique was unusual in not coming from an established dynasty of jewellers. He established his reputation whilst working for the famous jewellery houses of Cartier, Jacta and Boucheron.

Hairpin in the form of two arms of Viburnum, ca. 1902-1903 René Lalique, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

Hairpin in the form of two arms of Viburnum, ca. 1902-1903 René Lalique, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain


In 1885, Lalique took over the workshop of Parisian jeweller Jules Destape and began working independently for private clients like Sarah Bernhardt, as well as Paris’s finest jewellery retailers. Lalique pieces became favoured by the celebrities of the day, from opera stars to aristocrats. They were admired for their creative styling and brilliant use of new materials like plique-à-jour enamel, ivory, semi-precious stones and horn.

'Swallows in the Reeds' necklace, 1900, René Lalique Museum Für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, CC0

‘Swallows in the Reeds’ necklace, 1900, René Lalique Museum Für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, CC0

 


Lalique created exquisite pieces for his clients, such as chokers, pendants, bracelets and earrings. His work often utilised semi-precious materials like sculptured ivory and tortoiseshell, sculpted into delicate nature-inspired pieces featuring leaves, orchids, and butterflies. The insects, flowers and nymphs which adorned his jewellery were quintessentially Art Nouveau motifs, realised in exquisitely intricate forms.

Brooch with cornflowers, ca. 1904-1906 René Lalique, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

Brooch with cornflowers, ca. 1904-1906 René Lalique, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

By the 1920s, Lalique’s work had evolved into the Art Deco style and he became best known for his creations in glass. Lalique died on 1 May 1945 and he was buried in the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Today his pieces are in the collections of many museums around the world including the Museum Für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, the Rijksmuseum, the Victoria and Albert Museum and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


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