Audio story about the School of Nancy
In the new edition of the Audio Stories column we will talk about the Nancy School (École de Nancy).
The Nancy School is a conventional name for an association of artists and craftsmen, as well as educational institutions and production enterprises that emerged in the capital of Lorraine during the Art Nouveau period, at the turn of the 19th- 20th centuries.
The emergence of the Nancy school was not least due to the economic boom that began there in the 1950s with the construction of the Marne-Rhine canal and the opening of the first railway station. The chemical and metallurgical industries emerged in the city. At the same time, the traditional Nancy industries such as ceramics and glass were given a new impetus. Another major factor in the transformation of Nancy into one of the "new art" canters, was the Franco-Prussian War of 1879-1871, which led to the annexation of Alsace and East Lorraine by Prussia.
École de Nancy, or the Nancy School, was a group of Art Nouveau artisans and designers working in Nancy, France between 1890 and 1914. Major figures included the furniture designer Louis Majorelle, cabinetmaker and glass artist Jacques Grüber, glass and furniture designer Émile Gallé, and Daum Freres manufactory. Their work was largely inspired by floral and foliage forms found in the region. The aim of the group was to produce in series common items, such as furniture, glassware, and pottery, with fine craftsmanship and bizarrely shaped, making art objects available for dwellings.
In 1900, these craftsmen presented their works at the Universal Exhibition in Paris*. This was the first time the Nancy craftsmen had shown their artwork together. The following year, 1901, Emile Galle wrote an open letter, which was published in the daily newspaper "l'Etoile de l'Est" on January 11 and in the magazine "Lorraine-Artiste" on January 15, calling for the creation of a regional organisation to promote the development of art industry in Lorraine. The appeal was heard, and on February 13, 1901, the Nancy School or the Provincial Alliance of Art Industries (Alliance Provinciale des Industries d'Art) was established. Emile Galle became the first president of the newly created organisation.
The following were declared as the main objectives of the School of Nancy:
— to contribute to the cultural prestige of the city of Nancy;
— to seek and find themes and techniques capable of unifying the products produced by the members of the association, while fully recognising their autonomy;
— to raise significance of art industry via foundation of school and museum, by organizing exhibitions.
The doors of the association were open not only to artists and craftsmen, but also to interested entrepreneurs, journalists and art amateurs. The artworks created by the members of the association were diverse. There were glass, crystal, faience and metal items, ceramics, artistic wood carvings, architectural constructions, interior items and landscape design projects among them.
Due to the skilfully structured policy of the association management and active participation in major international exhibitions, the Nancy School soon became known not only in France, but also abroad. The Nancy School artistic products were consistently praised in Chicago, London, Munich, Brussels and Turin.
After the death of Emile Galle, Victor Prouvé (1858-1943), painter, sculptor and engraver, took over as the head of the Nancy School. Under his leadership, the association existed for another five years.
1909 was the last year when the members of the association exhibited their works together. The Art Nouveau style was being replaced by the Art Deco movement. High-end and expensive art industry products, produced in small batches, were becoming unprofitable.
Much more economically justified was mass production of cheaper decorative art items. Transition of the leading representatives of the Nancy school (Louis Majorelle, the Daum Freres manufactory and the prominent glass artist Jacques Gruber) to the Art Deco style symbolised the decline of the association.
In the 1970s, many Art Nouveau buildings in Nancy were destroyed during urban construction works. The School of Nancy was not rediscovered until the late 1990s. Between 1998 and 2000, some 350 urban structures designed by representatives of the School were recognised as monuments and restored. The 1999th was declared the year of the Nancy School.
The Western European Art Glass and Ceramics section of the museum collection features artworks created by the members of the Nancy Art Association.