Armchair

Louis Süe (1875-1968) and Paul Huillard (1875-1966)
Damon and Berteaux, cabinetmakers
Paris, 1912
Yellow, green and red lacquered beech, green faux leather armrests and seat _87 x 53 x 44 cm
Purchase, 1990
Inv. 990.335
© Les Arts Décoratifs

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The distinct and varied characteristics of the decorative arts of the 1910s created a promising, particularly appealing style. From 1909 on, young artist-decorators advocated a return to tradition; going against the last proponents of a less extravagant Art Nouveau, they upheld a commitment to color, a decorative repertoire stemming from the eighteenth century and ornamentation inspired by passementerie. André Véra, the theorist of the movement, published these precepts in 1912 in the form of a manifesto in the journal L’Art Décoratif. This armchair and its sofa, which feature all the elements of the new style, were part of a furniture suite for a study room exhibited by Louis Süe and Paul Huillard at the Salon d’Automne in 1912, the last year of their partnership. A drawing of a chair from this suite illustrated the text written by Véra, who belonged at that time to the Atelier Français founded by Süe. The very classical form was inspired by eighteenth-century Provençal furniture, particularly the bench seat known as a radassié. The painted wood and bright colors are in keeping with the colorist trend inspired by the German Werkbund, Fauvism and the Ballets Russes. The basket of flowers on the back of the armchair reflects the ideas of André Véra, who considered that “baskets and garlands of fruit and flowers should be the mark of the new style.” A painter by training, Louis Süe had been admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts in 1893 as a student of architecture. In 1903, he began his career with his fellow student Paul Huillard; the pair contributed many furniture pieces to the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs and the Salon d’Automne. In 1912, with André Véra and the painter and decorator André Mare, Louis Süe founded the Atelier Français, modeled on Josef Hoffmann’s Vienna workshops which he had visited with the couturier Paul Poiret. After the war, Louis Süe and André Mare founded a design firm called the Compagnie des Arts Français, and contributed to the reconstruction effort by producing inexpensive mail-order furniture. For the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, the Compagnie created the Pavillon Fontaine, the reception room of the Grand Palais and, above all, the Musée d’Art Contemporain, a synthesis of the theories published in the “Architectures” manifesto of 1921. In 1928, the Compagnie des Arts Français was sold to Jacques Adnet, and Louis Süe pursued a solo career.

É. P.

Évelyne Possémé, “Mobilier. Décoration” in Anne Bony, Les Années 10, Paris, Éditions du Regard, 1991.

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