1928 Salon des Artistes Décorateurs



(Art & Décoration, H.-A. MARTINIE, June 1928)

After visiting the sixteenth Salon des Décorateurs, if you are looking for a place where you can sum up your impressions and reflect a little, you will hardly find a more suitable place than the room of display cases. We see again, excellently highlighted, in a spacious and well-ordered field, the works of our best craftsmen.

The large stained glass window by Barillet (in collaboration with J. Le Chevallier and Th. Hanssen) designed for this room, deserves attention. The word "stained glass" is usually associated with the colorful magic of stained glass windows from the Middle Ages, barely remembering the grisaille stained glass windows executed in the following centuries. However, there is no hint of paint in Barillet's stained glass window, which gives off a dull light compared to the glow of old stained glass windows, and this is disconcerting. To translate its vast composition, with a modern theme and a very 1925 design, Barillet uses plain or ribbed white glass, opaque milky glass, and pieces of clear or black mirror; by varying the arrangement of the striated glasses (vertically, horizontally, obliquely), he obtains a range of grays which he plays skilfully.

To this stained glass window, on the other side of the luminous monument, responds the wrought iron entrance door designed by Mr. Expert, architect, and masterfully produced by Raymond Subes, for the new school of decorative arts. With a squat design, the two leaves of this monumental door are adorned with four allegorical motifs, also in wrought iron, with a simple symbolism, which bring their tasty grace in the bare rigidity of the vertical bars. A Minerva, translated with a popular feeling that goes well with wrought iron, stands at the top like a familiar tutelary deity.

The showcases containing the glassware are placed opposite the windows, and this arrangement is to be praised, as it makes the light play through the colored glass as through stained glass. We see again with the same pleasure the glassware of Marinot, of a collected shape and deep tones; de Sala, light and bright unique rooms; by Théo Berst, in the Alsatian tradition; from Navarre, Argy Rousseau's pasta; Daum's works, ample and noble, can be found in the entrance hall and in the interior designers.

We find the prestige of the material informed and coated with color among the ceramists who, for so long, have put their fine craft back in the spotlight: Buthaud, Cazaux, Delaherche, Fau, Lachenal, Serré in the lead; or even among metal craftsmen. With skilful metal inlays, Linossier joins the purity of the form to the juxtapositions of tones of a warm harmony; Dunand (found in another room), on the contrary, using lacquer, obtains dazzling contrasts; a newcomer, Laurenson, shows a somewhat uncertain technique with gifts and taste, starts favorably.

Even for current sale products, porcelain and glassware testify to noble concerns, but the table sets of Mrs. Suzanne Lalique, whose design and tone, of a very personal distinction, admirably serve the whiteness and brilliance unique to porcelain. The same can be said of the Prunier sets produced by the Manufacture nationale de Sèvres which, moreover, is continuing its initiatives to extend the area of its activity. Small earthenware animals, a clock after a model by Guino show a tendency to encourage. It should be noted, for the same reasons, the windows of the Breton pottery Henriot which publishes models by Bouchard and Méheut, among others.

Bookbinding, today a feminine art, one might say, uses color more soberly. There are hardly any errors. The current binding rejects picturesque effects, complicated compositions and abstruse ornamentation. It is limited, with good reason, to the preparation of the leather, to a strict decoration to which a few strokes of gilding or color suffice; the mosaic effects are limited to two tones. The bindings produced in the binding and gilding workshop of the Ladies' Committee of the Central Union of Decorative Arts reflect these principles. Those of Mlle de Léotard, among many others, remain an excellent example in this respect. The red and gold diagrams of Knock or the Triumph of Medicine, the mast ropes for L'ile Mysterious, the networks of lines for Rhumbs and Other Rhumbs, inspired by the work itself, give a very spiritual turn to an ornamentation in the remaining very sober but of a great effect.

Finally, there are objects made of a material of such beauty in itself that the art of man can add nothing to it, except a form worthy of emphasizing this beauty. Thus jewelry, represented here by Bablet's most interesting attempt at mass-produced jewelry. The modest price of his works in no way affects their real quality of art. Thus goldsmithery. Works by Cardeilhac and Daurat can be found elsewhere, but in the showcase room there are, in addition to Lelièvre, the Danish goldsmiths who are grouped around Georg Jensen. We know the simplicity of Jensen's forms, the simple and bare grace in which he delights and which finds new evidence here, in his productions as in those of his disciples.

The showcase room is not only a useful preface to the furniture ensembles. Its animated spectacle encourages us to think that if modern art has a won cause, it is because it has won women over to its cause.

Women, for psychological reasons on which there is no need to dwell here, are by nature in love of new, while man in general is reluctant to change, hinders as much as he can the variations of the fashion. At the beginning of modern art, when the woman, in a Louis XV salon, served the tea, the hand that held the teapot, Louis XV, naturally, unscrupulously adorned himself with modern rings. This rapprochement, this contact, shocked her no more than sitting down, in a 1900 dress and with a liberty scarf, in an eighteenth-century shepherdess. Little by little, jewelry, vases and various trinkets, especially fabrics, insidiously introduced new art into the house, among the styles. From these objects, the new decorative elements passed to the furniture, then to the entire dwelling. Without this ornamental preparation, one can believe that modern art, in spite of its progress and a more severe taste, as well at the artists as at the public, would have known a different fate.

It is interesting, in this connection, to recall here that in the first attempts at modern decoration, one of the most prolific and gifted artists, Georges de Feure, professed the same opinion. In a study of the latter's extensive work published in this journal, Octave Uzanne writes:

“As a good psychologist and lover of beauty, M. de Feure believes that women have a major influence on the general mode of decoration. The apartments, the theatres, the salons, the exhibitions are, so to speak, decorated according to the same fashion that governs the wearing of toilets, coats, luxury hats... Ah! teach women what would best suit their capricious metamorphoses, bring them back to simplicity, to broad outlines, to the sobriety of delicate, subtle and beautiful hues!...”

Young decorators attach the highest value to the qualities of construction and architecture. They also use color with extreme and exquisite sobriety.

The successes that already praise them, the distinction to which they achieve, a charm all of vigor fully justify their ambitions. Thanks to them, the proof is made that a new art, stripped of any purely decorative ornament, is viable from now on and already receives the adhesion of the public.

In addition, it could also be that it was the one that best meets modern requirements of comfort, hygiene, cleanliness, simplicity.

And it is by no means by chance, among other things, that a group of young artists simultaneously sought a solution to metal furniture: metal, in the thankless and anti-decorative form of a tube, tempted them by this very fact and allowed them to renew forms. It is a joy to consider how happily they played through the difficulty and overcame it. For furniture, it is important to distinguish wooden furniture and metal ones. The former, both individual pieces of furniture and sets, continue to focus on the qualities that we are used to seeing and demanding today. These qualities, we find them in the Leleu low-cupboard. Montagnac, for a piece of furniture of the same kind, seeks a renewal of form by flaring the sides upwards in the form of a bellows: more decorative than architectural. Stéphany's “decorator's desk”, with its semi-circular top with a wide design, responds well to its purpose, allowing the deployment of plans and drawings. The charming fabric covering the seats in René Crevel's lounge area attracts visitors. Further on, they stay in front of Henri Rapin's tripartite room, and their preferences seem to go to the hairdresser. In The Bedroom for a Yacht, Raymond-Nicolas shows a somewhat gloomy imagination that diverts attention from the real merits of adaptation.

Printz studio is designed for man whose works of mind do essential task. The happy arrangement of the whole in two compartments without the unity of the piece being broken, the easy access to all shelves, the convenience of the office whose surface doubles without complication, the softness of the lighting, other practical details will excite the envy of many writers.

There is nothing but praise for Bouchet's three rooms: bedroom, boudoir, bathroom. The distribution of the rooms, the proportions of furniture and space, their agreement with the general tone, so harmonious, predispose to taste the sweetness of life. Maurice Jallot follows the excellent example set by his father from the start of his career. Its dining room, seriously and intelligently studied already seems the result of experience and proven taste. That of Mr. Fréchet, in light satin wood cabinetry, marquetry and silver bronzes, worthily praises the director of the Boulle school. The drop-leaf table, the chairs with curved wooden backs, of an elegant and robust design, testify to the desire for new adaptations carried out by a man of equally sure taste and profession.

Ruhlmann's “state room” well justifies its name. The basket bed, ingeniously placed on three wide legs, awakens ideas of joyful voluptuousness. though it is as deep as a tomb, like the couch in The Death of Lovers. In this order of furnishing, it is always remarkable to see how Ruhlmann excels in reconciling “pageantry” and nervous distinction. One dreams in front of Roux-Spitz's bathroom as in front of an ideal that is too distant; of a sober luxury, it would also serve as a frigidarium in summer, but in winter..? For his ladies' salon in a palace, René Prou has established large armchairs whose comfort must above all be appreciated; a small gushing fountain among flowers makes freshness. Tired travelers will gladly relax in these modern caquetoires.

Let's praise together two eminent cabinetmakers: an elder, Léon Jallot, a young, Kohlmann. Léon Jallot testifies to an extraordinary youth of inspiration with his ivory bedroom, so well suited to the pointed charm of today's young girl. The design of the dressing table and the bed, in particular, bring, in this spirit, a remarkable expression of modern art. Fantasy, taste, a fine craft, a color where the sun likes to play, we expect all of this from Kohlmann, and find it in her lady's room for the Studium-Louvre. This purebred cabinetmaker, who happily rejuvenates the most traditional forms, - as in his chiffonnier, where the rectilinear ornament underlines the construction, - is not a prisoner of his technique. He also comes to contribute to the development of the metal furniture, with an elegant office armchair.

This same freedom, this same boldness, we find them in Maurice Dufrêne, and it does not fail to move when we evoke the already so full career of this artist. In his "common house" he expends himself in multiple ingenuities; combinable furniture, floating curtains, widely seated metal seats. But perhaps more than anything else, the central heating device by the lower part of the wrought iron railing of the staircase seems susceptible of the happiest applications.

The most remarkable innovation of this show can be found in the important place given to metal furniture, of which we have already come across isolated trials along the way. The young artists we are about to see have systematized its application to complete furniture, as has already been done in Germany. The common interest of the metal furniture of Matet, Djo-bourgeois, René Herbst and Charlotte Perriand lies in the categorical admission of the material, in the frank search for new forms, resulting from the qualities of flexibility, resistance and lightness of the tube of steel. It is therefore not a question, here, of providing a metal frame for the furniture in a consecrated form, by closing the voids with wooden panels or tapestry, but of furniture where the metal essentially intervenes as a constructive and decorative element. Thus, on a steel tube stool base, Djo-bourgeois, Charlotte Perriand stretch a simple canvas, whose rare tone makes all the price.

For chairs and armchairs, a wide padding on the backrest, a removable cushion on the seat ensure the desired comfort.

Moreover, to remove the objections, it is only necessary to look without bias. At the Studium-Louvre stand, again, in Matet's boudoir, so agreeable in tone and seductive in taste, the vast stretched steel tube sofa, padded with small parallel pigskin cushions, seems so welcoming that you want to sit there; moreover, it is lifted effortlessly. But it is before the ensembles of Djo-bourgeois, René Herbst and Charlotte Perriand that we can best judge the artistic possibilities of metal furniture. In its living room, Djo-bourgeois imposes itself with a haughty and delicate taste. One is surprised that such an enchantment results from such simple means: straight lines, two or three tones, but those of such proportion, those rare and of an exquisite ratio, whether they are juxtapose on the curtains and portières of Elise Djo-bourgeois, on the cushions and seats, each of them in a united tone but different from its neighbour. René Herbst's smoking room presents beautiful qualities, with a more serious harmony, where sobriety unites with a search for the best tone. Finally, Charlotte Perriand's dining room would charm a Brillat-Savarin from 1928 with its cheerfulness, its conveniences so predisposing to the pleasure of the table and good company. Its swivel metal chairs, upholstered with red coral leather cushions, its stools with green tops, its retractable table, in particular, provide ingenious and charming solutions to organizational problems that preoccupy so many housewives.

Retracing his steps, there are still many opportunities to be interested: the grandiose, but simple and logical plan of Paris modernized by Le Corbusier and Jeanneret; the sculpture museum model by Favier, which the sculptors would like to see made; the Lalique stand, still surprisingly young and inventive; the showcases of Kieffer, a bookbinding master, of Cardeilhac, with cutlery and goldsmith's pieces for which Colin gave the models; the travel agency office of Mrs. Le Son, of a Parisian 1925 Americanism, an invitation to travel for the readers of Paul Morand; various ironworks by Subes and Schenck. A showcase where Gigou exhibits his new pieces of locksmith art, of recent modernism.

Let's finish by pointing out the "trinkets" and "nice things" of the day that appeal to our imagination and our poetic sense: the graceful Regent fans; the whimsical and ethereal glassworks of Mlle Fontan, whose fragility is still a charm; Madame Chauvel's coral, crystal and amethyst trees...

Despite the most severe fashions that may prevail, there now exists, in the diversity of talents of our artists and craftsmen, something more precious than a style, moreover incompatible with our social circumstances: the ability to satisfy the desires of all sensitive and cultured beings.