The Corning Museum of Glass, in Corning, New York, is featuring an exhibition of decorative glass by French artist René Lalique (1860-1945). The exhibit, René Lalique: Enchanted by Glass, runs from May 17 to Jan. 4, 2015 and highlights his work from 1893 to his death. It will also include production molds and drawings of his various designs.
Lalique was one of the most influential jewelers and glass makers in France. He gained prominence in the Art Nouveau style during the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the characteristic flowing lines and attention to natural forms such as flowers. When the geometric shapes and bright colors of Art Deco came into vogue, his popularity continued. The works he created became lasting representations of those periods.
He combined his artistry with business and marketing tactics that changed with the times. His use of innovative industrial practices, such as mass production, made his decorative glass available and affordable to homes throughout the world. As a result, he was not only able to serve a market that already existed but also created new markets for his work.
The artist was born in a small village in France but his family moved to a suburb of Paris when he was two years old. At the age of 16, he became an apprentice to Louis Aucoc, a leading jeweler of the day. After studying in Paris and a suburb of London, he returned to Paris and began designing jewelry. Soon, he was working freelance for several Paris jewelers including Cartier. He opened his own shop in 1890. Besides gems, he added glass, ivory and other materials to his jewelry to make each piece a work of art. One of his most famous patrons was the noted actress, Sarah Bernhardt. The Corning Museum exhibit includes examples of jewelry as well as a variety of decorative glass objects made by Lalique.
He received awards and honors for his exhibitions of jewelry and decorative objects d’art made of glass, bronze and ivory. He was presented with the Croix de la Legion d’Honneur for his work shown at the 1897 World’s Fair in Brussels. In 1900, over 50 million people saw his exhibit at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. By the time of his work was displayed at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, he was considered the finest jeweler and decorative artist of his day by the public and his peers.
It was also during this time that he began shifting his focus from jewelry to more emphasis on decorative glass. He ended up creating over 1,500 glass models that ranged from practical to decorative, large and small, and one-of-a-kind to mass produced. Some of the items were tableware, glasses, ashtrays, paperweights, fountains, doors, perfume bottles, mirrors and numerous other items. When World War I broke out, Lalique’s glass factory made glass bottles and medicine containers for hospitals. Today, Lalique glass and jewelry items are in museums throughout the world.
The Corning Museum will also feature a companion exhibit, Designing for a New Century: Works on Paper by Lalique and His Contemporaries, scheduled to run May 17 to Jan. 4. This focuses on the drawings, trade catalogs and photographs of work by other French artists who worked with glass such as Emile Gallé and Maurice Marinot. For more information on these upcoming exhibits, please click on the event links below.
By Cynthia Collins