Gallé Émile manufactory

“Flowers should not be put in the vases of Galle, since they will always look faded in them”
Oscar Wilde

The history

French designer Émile Gallé is regarded as one of the major representatives of the Art Nouveau style. Naturalistic design when combined with novel breakthrough technologies made him one of the best glass production masters.

Émile Gallé 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 stemware and ceramics. He was engaged in studying drawing, botany, mineralogy and philosophy from youth. When he was nineteen, Emil started working at his father's enterprise and headed the family business in 1874. He changed the assortment, expanding it significantly, and started his unparalleled experiments with glass production technologies. Galle revolutionized the art of glass manufacturing by combining the ancient technologies, such as enameling, glass thread and parfling with his own inventions and industrial innovations. Combining massive frosted glass with the Japanese style details, Galle bestowed the atmosphere of mystery by cutting out an image or sealing it inside almost every item. This innovation-based singularity became his trademark rather shortly.

Galle debuted at the Paris World Exhibition in 1788, causing a furor by his exquisite proficiency to combine diverse application innovations with figurative principles of the Symbolism style. He introduced the clair-de-lune technique (tincturing with cobalt oxides that tinted glass the sapphire hue), created items from laminated glass (treating glass with colorants and acid or practicing carving technique) – with the surface resembling translucent gem carved in relief (cameo). Не developed the technology of  hot glass mixture processing, adding foil fragments, air bubbles and dense cracking into the texture.

Since 1884, Galle produced the so-called ”talking” glassware (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 an extraordinarily talented person. He created not only unique one-of-a-kind singletons, but by implementing the simplified technologies, Galle produced the commercialized items that a wide variety of customers could afford as well. The 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 the distinctive works of Galle.

In the eighties, Galle was carried away by experimenting with laminated glass, which he matted or treated with acids. As a result, under the skimmed by acid top color layer, the next one of different tint, became visible. Whole glass paintings  appeared, they were inimitable and sometimes even mystical. As a rule, the works of Émile Gallé  were adorned with stylized foliage patterns. Most often, they were the herbal, floral, fruit motifs and images of insects. The source of Galle’s personal inspiration was his native region of Lorraine and Northeast France. A thistle flower that was frequently depicted in the works of Galle was the region symbol. Thus, the singularity of the Galle works’ decoration was his reference to not only the elevated style flowers - roses, orchids, but to the images of wildflowers and mixed herbs that rarely inspired artists formerly. 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 as well – the artists of the Art Nouveau era.

La Maison de L’Art Nouveau was opened in Nancy in 1895. The Art Nouveau designed interior items were exhibited there. The designers-innovators Emile Gallé and Louis Majorelle, being in the forefront of the Provincial Art Industry Alliance, later renamed the Nancy School, boosted the new art trend. Thus, from producing small ceramic and glass objects, liquor sets and vases, Émile Gallé proceeded to the larger forms, including furniture items. 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 that worked with multifarious materials and techniques evolved around Émile Gallé  from the late 19th century and through to the First World War beginning. In 1900, many of them, including Émile Gallé, successfully presented their works at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. At this exhibition, Galle had the spectacular exposition with the operating furnace mounted 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 artisan received many awards, including the Legion of Honour order.

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

École de Nancy not for a single day suspended production until 1909, and the widow of the great artisan, Henrietta Galle-Grimm immediately after his death assumed control of the production and retained the former team of technicians and designers that continued the Emile Galle traditions of mass production. Émile Gallé signature was put on all glass items, although a star was cut next to the name, denoting that the products were created after his death.

Exhibits in the Museum Collection