Galle Emil manufactory

“One should not put flowers in Galle vases, since they always look dead in them”
Oscar Wilde

French designer Emil Gallé is considered one of the main representatives of the Art Nouveau style. Naturalistic design combined with revolutionary innovative technologies made him one of the best glass masters.

Emil Galle was born on May 4, 1846 in the town of Nancy in the French province Lorraine in the family of a prominent businessperson that produced decorative table glass and ceramics. He was engaged in studying drawing, botany, mineralogy and philosophy from youth. In the age of nineteen, Emil started working at his father's enterprise and headed the family business in 1874. He changed the assortment, expanding it significantly, and began his unique experiments with manufacturing processes. Galle revolutionized the art of glass making by combining ancient methods such as enameling, glass thread and parfling with his own investigations and industrial innovations. Combining heavy frosted glass with Japanese style, Galle imparted details with the atmosphere of mystery by carving out or sealing an image inside almost every item. These creative and innovative features became his trademark rather shortly.

Galle debuted at the Paris World Exhibition in 1788 creating a sensation by his exquisite skill to combine diverse applied innovations with figurative principles of symbolism. He used the technique of “moonlight” (clair-de-lune; tinted with cobalt oxides, giving the glass a sapphire hue), created works from laminated glass (treated with stainer, acid and chiselling) – with the surface resembling cameos made of translucent stone. Не modified the methods of bulk glass processing, introducing foil, air bubbles and intentional crackling into the texture.

Since 1884, he also produced the so-called "speaking" glass items (verreries parlantes) with quotations by F. Villon, S. Baudelaire, S. Mallarmé, P. Verlaine and other poets. A writer and philosopher, an artist and designer, Galle was the extraordinarily talented person. He created not only unique one-of-a-kind singletons, but also implementing the simplified technologies, produced the commercialized items that wide range of customers could afford. Acquisition of the major glass factory in Nancy started the “industrial period” in the company operation. Herewith, the products were of very high quality, with elaborate processing of laminated glass, merely devoid of philosophical implication inherent to unique works.

In the eighties, Galle was carried away by laminated glass, which he rendered mat or treated with acids. As a result, under the skimmed by acid top chromatic layer, the next one of different colour, became visible. Pictures, wholly made of glass appeared; they were unique and sometimes even mystical. The works of Emil Galle were decorated with stylized foliage ornaments as a rule. Most often, the herbal, floral, fruit motifs and images of insects appeared in these pictures. The source of Galle’s personal inspiration was his native region of Lorraine and northeastern France. A thistle flower that was frequently depicted in Galle works was a symbol of the region.

Thus, the unique feature of the works by Galle decoration was his reference not only to the “high” style flowers - roses, orchids, but that the infusive images of his works were wildflowers and mixed herbs, which rarely inspired artists before. Umbelliferous flower (hogweed), hydrangea, lily, convolvulus, black currant and maple leaves, spruce, bushes, branches and cones - similar motifs became the favorite plots for the Galle apprentices – the artists of the Art Nouveau era.

In Nancy, in 1895, the La Maison de L’Art Nouveau was opened, where the Art Nouveau interior designed items were exhibited. Innovative designers Emile Gallé and Louis Majorelle were the leaders of the Provincial Art Industry Alliance, later renamed as the Nancy School, they boosted the new art style. Thus, from small ceramic and glass objects, liquor sets and vases, Emil Galle proceeded to the larger forms, furniture among other things. Beds, display cases, cabinets, tables and lamps that he created had the identical mystical and philosophical implication of the Art-Nouveau era. A group of talented artists, decorators, sculptors, furniture designers who worked with multifarious materials and techniques evolved around Emil Galle from the late 19th century and through to the First World War. In 1900, many of them, including Emil Galle, successfully presented their works at the grand World Exhibition in Paris. At this exhibition in 1900, Galle had the outstanding exposition that comprised an operating furnace in the center. The show was highly evaluated, and Galle won two major prizes. This was the last triumph in his career. Throughout his life, the master received many awards, including the Legion of Honour order.

In 1901, Galle established and became the first president of École de Nancy and the Provincial de Industries d'Art Alliance. The aim of those institutions was to protect everyone who was engaged in the Art Nouveau style decorative art. On September 23, 1904, Emil Galle died in Nancy.

École de Nancy not for a single day discontinued production until 1909, and the great artisan’s widow Henrietta Galle-Grimm immediately after his death undertook control of the production and retained the former team of technicians and designers who continued the traditions of Emile Galle in the batch production. Emil Galle signature was put on all glass products, although a star was engraved next to his name, denoting that the products were created after his death.

With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the production came to a full stop. It was resumed only after the war finished, when Paul Perdrizet, the son-in-law of Emile Halle, headed the factory. Paul contributed by adding new designs that retained the same technique and style that the maestro had implemented throughout his life. Production completely stopped in 1936. The works by Galle are stored in almost every museum in the world, including the Metropolitan, Smithsonian Institution and the Louvre.

In 1936, the factory finally ceased producing mass-market items under the Galle brand.
Glass production technique, originated by Emil Galle, outlasted not only the author, but his direct heirs and followers as well, being reconfigured differently in various countries.

The vases with foliage and landscape motifs were produced in the Soviet Union in the middle of the 20th century, as well the vases with skiers against the wintry landscape background and even the vases with the portraits of communist leaders. In Romania, for instance, some art objects are still modeled after the most noteworthy samples and techniques matching as closely as possible the Galle inventions.

The significance of Emil Galle contribution to the glassmaking development and the entire Art Nouveau style can hardly be overestimated. The factory that he founded in Nancy gave France a brilliant assemblage of talented artisans’ glassblowers. Brothers Jean and Antonin Daum (Daum Freres) that afterwards founded their factory are among them. Their factory production center around the aesthetics and technique of their great teacher.

In the Russian Empire Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra Fedorovna were the special esteemers of Galle glass items. Their private chambers were decorated with the Galle vases, the casing for which were made by the famous jewelers - Carl Faberge and Julius Rappoport.

Exhibits in the Museum Collection