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Ingrand, Max - Biography

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Born in 1908 in Deux-Sèvres, Max Ingrand spent part of his youth in Chartres. The cathedral and its famous stained-glass windows, whose colors are magnified by the constantly changing light, fascinates him. "My cathedral! (...) The splendor and magic of the many fires that the admirable colors provide "will have a decisive effect on the whole of his career. He left for Paris to study at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs and graduated in 1927 from master glassmaker Jacques Gruber, one of the founders of the Ecole de Nancy. Jacques Gruber is undoubtedly the most renowned stained glass specialist of his time, with innumerable achievements, ranging from the stained glass windows of the Majorelle villa and the Nancy Chamber of Commerce to those of the Galeries Lafayette in Paris. Max Ingrand will learn the intricacies of glass work in his workshop, which is also involved in the restoration of stained glass windows. He was initially in charge of painting on glass, and was then introduced to the techniques of making stained-glass windows and to the many possibilities offered by this material which he falls literally in love with, and which he will now appropriate.

Max Ingrand left the workshop of Jacques Gruber in 1931 to found his own company. The creation of all the stained glass windows in the bay of the Sainte Agnès church in Maisons-Alfort in the early 1930s marked the beginning of his career as a master glassmaker. These stained-glass windows already illustrate the style that Max Ingrand is going to develop: numerous characters who will tend, over time, to an increasingly pronounced expressionism (with some incursions in the 60s towards abstraction), the importance of strong colors, Blue, green, yellow, as used between the XIIth and the XVIth century. In the aftermath of the war, which he spent largely in a prison camp in Silesia where his faith was strengthened, Max Ingrand is one of the most sought-after glassmakers for the restoration and construction of churches . His creations, in an essentially figurative vein, are in opposition to the ideas of the Dominican father Marie-Alain Couturier, who advocates a renewal of sacred art and calls on artists such as Pierre Matisse, Fernand Léger or Alfred Manessier to realize the stained glass windows of religious buildings. At the end of his career, the workshops of Max Ingrand will have been used on more than two hundred churches, not only in France as at the Saint Gatien cathedral in Tours, the Beauvais cathedral or the Jacobins church in Toulouse, but also in Belgium, Germany, United States, Canada, Brazil and Venezuela.

Alongside his first orders for stained-glass windows, Max Ingrand was interested in engraved glass, which became more and more used in the decades of hotels, shops and brasseries, houses and apartments. He soon became one of the specialists in this technique. Glass, sometimes colored, is worked with acid and sand during complex and often dangerous operations (manipulation of hydrofluoric acid and jets of sand), and is subsequently silvered or gilded in order to reveal the engraved patterns . In 1931, he married Paule, a graduate of the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs, with whom he developed a large clientele seduced by the talent of the young couple. If Max is the technician who experimentes and carries out the engraving on glass, Paule works on the design of the subjects and motifs that will animate the glasses. Paule is a graphic artist, a painter, a fresco, and a very active career, ranging from the cover pages of the magazine Art et Industrie to tapestry boxes, frescoes and jewelery. Max and Paule made a major contribution to the fashion of engraved mirrors, which developed in the 1930s. Adepts of classicism, their motifs included, besides a few attempts of constructivist spirit, numerous mythological and astrological subjects. Milky Way, signs of the zodiac, works of Hercules, Venus, Bacchus, Mount Parnassus, fish and shells, floral entwines invade, on their supports of mirrors, walls, ceilings, doors, tables and screens. The famous American decorator Elsie de Wolfe commissioned several sets for her Parisian hotel, and opened the doors of the wealthy high society: Helena Rubinstein, Baroness of Gunzburg, Edsel Ford, Prince Asaka of Japan, and even King Charles II of Romania of whom they realize the canopy of his private theater ....

The decors of the engraved glasses of Max and Paule Ingrand are characterized by the sharpness of the line, the precision of the shapes, a powerful drawing. The mastery of the technique is such that it allows all subtleties to their creations, whose quality surpasses the achievements of their many followers, and makes them inimitable . It is therefore not surprising that most of the decorators of the time used them for hanging mirrors, table tops or slabs which serve not only for the decoration of furniture but also for important building sites, interiors. Among them are René Prou, Gilbert Poillerat, Marc du Plantier, René Drouet, Jules Leleu, Maxime Old, André Arbus and Raymond Subes. For the hotel of the baron Empain in Brussels, they conceive a canopy of thirty square meters where Hercules shoots down the hydra of the Herne while frolic wild beasts and other animals amidst stars and planets that illuminate when the night comes ... For the legendary steamer "Normandie", they realize among others a "Toilette of Venus" and decorate with mirrors the walls of more than 240 bathrooms! The years of war lead to a de facto separation between Max and Paule, By a divorce in 1945, and the end of their collaboration. He meets with his friend Gilbert Poillerat, the famous ironworker, Marie-Alberte Madre-Rey, who will become his second wife and of whom he will have two children.


Passionate about glass, Max Ingrand wants to integrate this material as a major component of the architecture of his time. Already in the 1930s, he had developed metal tiles covered with enamel, unalterable and allowing innumerable colors and textures, patented under the name of "Raghès". After the war, he became interested in the glass of Saint-Just as a wall covering, commonly called antique glass. It will cover the paneling of the dining room of the casino of Monte Carlo in the early 1950s. It was then that he was contacted by the Saint-Gobain factory to become its artistic director. Thanks to the discovery of glass quenching, it is now possible to produce highly resistant polished glass, which can reach large sizes. Many decorators, like René Coulon or Raphaël, then introduce glass into the furniture they draw. Max Ingrand brings his experience of this material in the design of new glass products. A whole range of glasses are born, colored, silvered, smoked, among others. He designed the new headquarters of the Saint Gobain factory, opens it on the outside with huge bay windows, conceals the light sources of the ceilings behind glass cabochons cut with a chisel. He even draws furniture, inspired by the creations of Gio Ponti and Italian design. Max Ingrand is aware that the use of glass, combined with light - whether natural or electric - offers new and multiple possibilities. At the beginning of the 1960s, he enlisted Ben Swilders, as director of the decoration department, whom he decided to create in his workshops at the Tenaille passage in Paris, where he had been living since 1932. From 1962 on, Interior architecture of countless public and private enterprises. They collaborated with the architects Edouard and Jean Niermans for the auditoriums of Radio France (1962), Olivier-Clément Cacoub for the palace of President Bourguiba in Skanes (1962), Pierre Dufau for the Atomic Energy Test Center ), Louis Sainsaulieu for the headquarters of Peugeot (1966).

The notoriety of Max Ingrand is largely due to his work on glass and light. For him, "noble and precious, glass seems to be the ideal complement to light," which itself is linked to life. In 1954, he became the artistic director of Fontana Arte. Created in 1932 by Gio Ponti, who shared his artistic direction with Pietro Chiesa, this company specializes in the production of furniture, light fixtures and glass objects. Saint Gobain has been a shareholder since 1952 to become its sole owner in 1966. With the help of talented designers, Max Ingrand is relaunching the company with collections of products that are distributed in Italy and abroad. He draws a large number of them, all of whom are subject to his approval. One of his first creations for Fontana Arte is a masterpiece: his lamp 853, designed in 1954, made of opal glass will prove to be a worldwide success. Chandeliers, ceiling lamps, floor lamps, sconces, table lamps, as well as some tables and objects, such as ashtrays, candle holders and vases invade the catalogs of the house Fontana Arte. Inventiveness is always present, with a keen sense of design and a highlighting of the multiple transparencies of the glass, thanks to a perfect knowledge of this material. The research of Max Ingrand and his collaborators explores all possibilities. The ashtrays are as smooth as pebbles, the "Trident" floor lamp imprisons three candles in a polished glass shell, just like the "Micro" floor lamp parodies the microphone of the 60s stars with its polished ice lamp and Reserve of sanded glass, placed on a rod of lacquered metal and brass. In order to widen the demand, a number of creations are available in lines of lamps including chandeliers, sconces and lamps. Particularly seductive, the illuminating mirror "Pistil", set with glass cabochons burst, dates from the same time. Some creations are real sculptures, such as this table lamp in bronze and polished glass slab and cut with a chisel on the edge, placed on a black lacquered wooden base, and published by Fontana Arte, around 1955-60. If Max Ingrand likes to use white opaline glass for the softness he confers on light, the technique of chisel size which allows spectacular visual effects, giving the glass a "broken" appearance, rough and crude that dominates the Light, becomes in a way its signature. 
While Max Ingrand travels to Milan every month, his Tenaille workshops continue to produce stained glass and all kinds of glass pieces, including prototypes for Fontana Arte. Already in 1947, the mirror industry had made some glass decorations, such as that of antique glass and sandblasted mirrors for the André Arbus stand at the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs in 1947. Many mirrors, large or smaller, are ordered By the decorators of the time. Some of them are of classical spirit, the mirror being simply framed with chopsticks also in mirror crossed by elegant interlacings. Other frames mix sandblasted, broken and cut glass, or cut-out mirrors and glass cabochons, transmitting to the object strength and power. The artist plays with shapes, using in turn the rectangle, the octagon or the free form. Thus, an ice slab sanded and cut with a chisel, like a piece of stone that is almost rough, surrounds a mirror, while a transparent, thermoformed, cut and gouged glass slab represents a sun. At the end of the 1950s, Max Ingrand made the luminous walls of the swimming pool of the first class for the "France" liner. The glass is worked with sand and chisel to form abstract patterns, giving the impression of quartz walls. The emblematic illuminating fountains of the Champs Elysées roundabout in Paris, with their acid-etched glasses and chiselled, were erected in 1959, those of the Place Victor Hugo in 1960. Gifted with an amazing work power, Hardly Max Ingrand leaves the direction of Fontana Arte in 1967, that decides to create the company Verre Lumière, one of the aims of which is to exploit the new technologies in the field of electricity. It is thus the first to publish halogen lamps. Another of the objectives of Verre Lumière is to establish a collaboration with architects and decorators in the light of lighting so that light becomes "building material".

Max Ingrand, President of the French Society of Lighting, former Vice-President of the Society of Decorative Artists, disappeared brutally in 1969. This humanist leaves behind a sum of creations all having the aim of magnifying the material that he loved so much, the glass, as transcended by light, which has so fascinated him.