Few artists influenced the direction of early 20th century decorative design more than René Jules Lalique. Lalique was born in the small village of Ay in northern France in 1860, but moved with his family to Paris at the age of two.
Like many talented artists that emerged from Paris during the early 20th century, Lalique thrived in the creative epicenter of the European world, attending Collège Turgot, a premier Parisian school of the arts. After his father’s death in 1875, Lalique found employment apprenticing with jeweler Louis Aucoc, gaining experience that would lay the groundwork for his own mastery of the craft. By 1881, Lalique had transformed himself from an eager apprentice into a successful freelance jewelry designer, working for manufacturers such as Cartier and Boucheron, as well as a growing roster of private clientele including actress Sarah Bernhardt and oil magnate Calouste Gulbenkian.
Lalique’s nature-inspired creations, with their soft, sensual Art Nouveau curves, captured the public’s attention. Shortly after establishing his first official workshop on the outskirts of Paris, Lalique opened a retail store in the affluent Opera district of Paris in 1890. Around this time, Lalique began experimenting with precious stones and metals, incorporating glass, ivory, pearls, and enamel into his increasingly elegant pieces.
Lalique’s reputation grew meteorically; his designs were acclaimed at numerous shows and exhibitions, including the Salon de Paris and the 1897 World’s Fair in Brussels. Ever the entrepreneur, he chose to expand his business by applying his craft to the perfume bottle industry. In 1905, Lalique opened a new location specializing in the production of luxury perfume bottles adorned with female nudes and patterns inspired by nature. His designs, such as Ambroise, Cactus, Deux Figurines, Eucalyptus, Sirene, and Amelie, were an immediate success.
By the end of his life, Lalique had grown his small business of imaginative, hand-crafted jewelry into a commercial manufacturer of production pieces in bronze and glass, as well as custom designs. With a catalog of over 1500 designs, Lalique’s glasswork remains his greatest legacy, encompassing clocks, vases, decanters, pitchers, glasses, jewelry, hood ornaments, and light fixtures in varied and elegant designs.
The company he founded, Lalique, still thrives to this day, producing jewelry, home décor, fragrances, and art glass that furthers the design philosophy established by René Lalique’s impressive and varied body of work.
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