François Décorchemont (1880-1971)
Lost wax pate-de-verre
H. 24 cm; Diam. with handles 25 cm
Bequest of M. and Mme Louis Barthou, 1934
© ADAGP, Paris / photo: Les Arts Décoratifs
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François Décorchemont exhibited his first pate-de-verre pieces at the Salon des Artistes Français in 1903. His early forms and decorations were influenced by the naturalism of Art Nouveau, but in the immediate post-war period the leaves, flowers and fruit in his repertoire became increasingly stylized and geometric. In 1920, the high-relief motifs that had previously structured the forms of his works were transferred to the handles, leaving the bodies of the pieces free for decorative expression. Although this large vase with two leaf-shaped handles was not presented at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in 1925, it was nonetheless one of the most successful and significant examples of the decorative sobriety, elegance and rigor that were now associated with modernity. Two stylized, geometric fiddlehead ferns establish the harmony of volumes; long leaves create a vertical decoration in a continuous, repetitive rhythm, restoring the imprint of the carved and incised plaster model used to shape the wax, then the glass. In the quest for simplified forms, the material became a decoration in itself, embellished with clouds and streaks that recall the natural effects of semi-precious minerals and organic materials (such as amber and tortoiseshell). The decoration comes alive through transparency and the play of light, according to a decorative principle that confronts effects of surface and depth. Eight examples of this vase were made between 1925 and 1927. The white, green and brown one held by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs was the first in the series; it was made in November 1925 and purchased by Louis Barthou, a French politician, book lover and art collector who bequeathed seven pieces by François Décorchemont and an exceptional set of glassware by Maurice Marinot to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in 1934. As a member of the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs, Décorchemont exhibited with a group called Les Artisans Français Contemporains, created by the Galerie Rouard (his principal agent in Paris). Its members included some of the greatest artists of the day: the ceramicists René Burthaud, Auguste Delaherche, Émile Decœur, Émile Lenoble, Jean Mayodon, Georges Serré and Henri Simmen; the glassmakers René Lalique and Henri Navarre; the small object makers Georges Bastard and Eugénie O’Kin. These exchange networks boosted Décorchemont’s research which, invigorated and enriched by this interaction between different fields and materials, contributed to the development of the modern style of the period.
Véronique Ayroles, “Un artiste-décorateur et sa galerie au XXe siècle : François Décorchemont et la maison Rouard,” Revue de l’Art, no. 118, 1997-4, pp. 56-68
Véronique Ayroles, François Décorchemont, un maître de la pâte de verre 1880-1971, Paris, Éditions Norma, 2006.