René Lalique 1860–1945

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.