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Louis Sognot (1892-1970) is an artist decorator and designer. First of all protagonist of Cubism and the Modern Movement, he will distance himself from them by moving away from the radicalism of Functionalism to affirm a certain idea of comfort and quality; this unique position explains his dual involvement as a member of the Union of decorators, creators, interior designers (UADCE) and the Union of modern artists and, later, his commitment to the Institute of Industrial Aesthetics.
A former student of the École Bernard Palissy, he learned cabinetmaking with Jansen and then fitting out ocean liners in the Krieger workshop. After his demobilization in 1919, he entered the Grands Magasins du Printemps in 1920 to then managed the "Primavera" workshop after the death in 1931 of René Guilleré, alongside his wife Charlotte Chauchet-Guilleré, until the arrival of Colette Guéden in 1938. Primavera - which is one of the founding places of Art Deco - allows him to edit his first pieces of furniture which he presents from 1923 at the Salon d'Automne and at the Salon des artistes décorateurs. He thus invented an armchair in leather and flat chromed steel on springs in 1925, an enveloping chair in split leather and a strongly structured bar stool in chromed metal tubing, which he presented for Primavera at the Salon d'Automne in 1927 and which will be followed in 1929 by a more simplified black lacquered bar stool. The portfolio Répertoire du goût moderne N°5, published in 1929 by Albert Lévy, also includes a plate by Sognot from 1927 of a “Furniture in metal for a workshop-studio”.
Pavillon PRIMAVERA - Exposition International des Art Décoratifs, Paris, 1925
The modern movement greatly inspired him and one quickly felt a strong influence of cubism in his creations, notably in the Primavera pavilion presented at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in 1925, where he also discovered the creations of Robert Mallet-Stevens and Francis Jourdain, who will largely influence his future achievements. Under their sponsorship, he joined the Union of Modern Artists in 1930, without however definitively breaking his ties with the Society of Decorative Artists.
Although influenced by chromed metal tube furniture as invented by Marcel Breuer, Louis Sognot would find his own marks in the Modern Movement from the end of the 1920s. From 1928 to 1933, he joined forces with Charlotte Alix by founding the Bureau international des arts français. They were the first to collaborate with the Société du Duralumin, a subsidiary of L' Aluminium Français, specializing in the manufacture of tubes and various profiles in aluminum alloys, which founded a workshop to assist architects and decorators in their projects. They then invent many sets in metal but which seek to escape the "Clinical Style" to reconcile with the quality of a certain French tradition claimed at the Salon des artistes décorateurs. In 1929, they had a tea room for a terrace in duralium created for the Printemps department stores, researched innovative materials, as much among metals, glass as plastics, and added to their furniture materials which, without being rare, give off a preciousness, such as mirrors, wood, rattan marrow, leather or colored fabrics6, which made them very widely noticed by the critics of the time, because they seemed to reconcile the productivism of industry and the individualism of decor:
“You can see that if they used metal almost everywhere, they only did so in a very rational way by making it part of the whole, by mixing it with wood without imposing it as the only material. They didn't look for standard formulas; on the contrary, they believe that each new piece of furniture has a new solution and this is how they have succeeded in giving intimacy to a material that some claimed was unusable for these purposes »
In 1930, at the first Salon of the Union des Artistes Modernes, to which they had joined from the outset, Louis Sognot and Charlotte Alix presented a "board room that could be transformed into a work room" intended for the development of the Roussel laboratories in Paris with furniture in square section metal tubing and glass which, with its metal armchairs upholstered in washable fabrics, is considered to be one of the most complete ensembles. At the Salon des artistes décorateurs of the same year, they presented a stand "Test of a rest room for a colonial dwelling" with the Duralumin Company, noticed by Maharajah Yeshwant Rao Holkar II and the Maharani of Indore who placed an order with them for the Manik Bagh palace, built and fitted out by the German architect Eckart Muthesius, including armchairs, a dressing table, a chaise longue and several other of their creations again exhibited at the 1931 Salon d'Automne and at that of the UAM of 1932 and adapted before being sent to India. Also in 1930, they produced an armchair and a swivel chair in black imitation leather and a chrome cruciform leg, and participated, along with Le Corbusier, Pierre Chareau, Francis Jourdain and a few other decorative artists, in fitting out the offices of the newspaper The Week in Paris, building built by Mallet-Stevens rue d'Assas.
Multiple technical research leads to experiences that effectively contribute to the evolution of modern furniture. At the 1932 Salon d'Automne, Sognot was a precursor by exhibiting a dining room in "lakarmé", a new plastic material, molded and lacquered, which enabled him to obtain light, incombustible furniture, in various shapes and futurists. The same year, they exhibited at the Salon de l'UAM a large rectangular dining room table cantilevered against a wall lined with a mirror with metal seats covered with rattan and an astonishing duralumin bed with pivoting bedside tables in glass slabs, which will be chosen in 1935 by the Maharajah of Indore. In 1933, they also invented furniture with tubular chrome zigzag legs, including magazine racks and bathroom stools.
Louis Sognot also fitted out, with Charlotte Alix and then without her, the studio of Jean Carlu, the bar of the Polo de Bagatelle, the offices of the Syndic of the city of Paris or even theater sets for Henri Bernstein.
He also designed boat cabin furniture in steel tubing, which won an award in the competition organized by the Technical Office for the Use of Steel and exhibited on his stand at the Salon d'Automne in 1934, then in 1935, the very functional rosewood and sycamore desk of the first doctor on board the Normandy liner. With Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Jeanneret and René Herbst, he also presented La Maison du Jeune Homme at the 1935 Universal Exhibition in Brussels.
A new turning point in his creation began with the International Exhibition of Arts and Techniques in 1937, when Louis Sognot was President of the group of window dressers at the Palais de la Publicité, when the first affordable quality creations were disseminated by middle classes - especially in the Swedish Pavilion. The baton was taken over at the Salon des arts de la maison in 1939 when he presented a very economical hotel room made entirely of rattan. The war interrupted this beginning of democratization but Louis Sognot resumed this work in 1945, designing models for disaster victims alongside René Gabriel19. He then resumed it with Jacques Dumond for standard apartments at the International Exhibition of Urban Planning and Housing in 1947.
During this period, he defined a precise creative vocabulary in which light wood, rattan - of which he became the specialist in France - and more occasionally metal intervened. It remains very dynamic until the 1960s, its luxurious creations are edited by Maurice Rinck (including the one presented at the Universal Exhibition of 1958) while other simpler models are produced industrially. Mixing one and the other in his stands, with household arts or decorative artists, and in his fittings, he creates particularly original associations where, in wide and flexible lines, contrast the light tone of the rattan, the bright colors of the fabrics and the black of the metal in the furniture, and in the lighting made in collaboration with Serge Mouille.
Louis Sognot is also a very recognized teacher who will train many creators. Patrick Favardin presents it as follows:
“He was an example and a reference for his students, by his talent, his know-how, and above all by a sensitive and full of finesse approach to his profession. His work as a decorator and designer is marked by a modernist spirit of remarkable openness."
He was :
Professor of decoration at the École Boulle, from 1926;
Professor at the Technical College of rue Duperré;
Professor at the School of Applied Arts in Industry from 1938;
Foreman at the National School of Decorative Arts, from 1947;
Artistic director at the Central Union School of Decorative Arts, from 1947.