ARTS & COLLECTIBLES

LE CHIC!

The Mobilier national presents Le Chic! French Decorative Arts and Furniture From 1930 to 1960, an exhibition through January 29th, 2023. 200 pieces from all of Mobilier national’s collections gathered for the first time in one exhibition to revive the essence of “Chic” à la française.

KATHERINE GANNON

13. Andre╠ü Arbus (bois) et Vadim Androusov (bronze), de╠ütail de la commode a╠Ç vantaux ┬

 

André Arbus (wood) and Vadim Androusov (bronze),
detail of the “Medusa” two-door dresser, 1936,
GME 13613 © Thibaut Chapotot

 

From 1930 to the late 1950s, many of the decorators who will mark the history of these three decades of the 20th century are called to collaborate with Mobilier national: André Arbus, Jules Leleu, Jean Pascaud, Etienne-Henri Martin, Marc du Plantier, Gilbert Poillerat or Raphael Raffael. The figure of the decorator played an essential part at the time. As true “ensembliers”, they designed decorations as harmonious units and orchestrated fine crafts at the service of global projects. The art of refinement then relied on the preciousness of materials (parchment, gilded bronze, crystal, lacquer…) as well as on a pursuit of lines, and on the design drawing.

Mobilier national’s collection is of remarkable quality and diversity, and the first one in France at the time. Illustrating Art Deco and research in the field of decorative arts in the 1940s-1950s, this collection includes ceremonial furniture pieces – heirs to a long tradition of luxury – as well as functionalist pieces, which mark the transition towards contemporary design.

3. Marcel Bergue, table lumineuse, 1937, GML 5490. © Mobilier national, Isabelle Bideau.j

 

Marcel Bergue, luminous table, 1937, GML 5490.
© Mobilier national, Isabelle Bideau

16. Jacques Adnet et Jacques Despierre, bureau de dame, GME 13089. © Mobilier national.JP

 

Jacques Adnet and Jacques Despierre,
petit bureau, GME 13089.
© Mobilier national

Atelier Antoine Campos _IIIrdman (4).jpg

 

Restoration of Colette Gueden’s GME 10900 dresser
by Atelier Antoine Campos

Atelier du Crabe - Marc Fradin _IIIrdman (4).jpg

 

Restoration of Lucien Rollin’s GME 10 267 console table by atelier Antoine Vautier

This exhibition is also the occasion to highlight the skills of about fifty artisans and maîtres d’art who have contributed to the restoration of the exhibited pieces, thus revealing these units in a new light. Between 2021 and 2022, Mobilier national has initiated a restoration program on an unprecedented scale with about one hundred pieces of furniture and lamps from the 1930s to 1950s collection. This program has helped support a sector that has been weakened by the crisis and has promoted the activity of the men and women who keep priceless intangible heritage alive throughout France. At the heart of the exhibition, and with the help of digital technology, the scenography will give the keys to understand the rare materials and techniques used on the furniture and lamps of this period. The art of leather crafts, weaving, upholstery, passementerie, carpentry or cabinet making will be illustrated through the restoration of remarkable furniture pieces and collections.

Vincent Darré came up with a scenography for the exhibition allowing visitors to observe the development of decorative arts during the 1930s-1960s period:

Art Deco first appears in the palaces of the
Republic

Around 1935, Mobilier national will acquire furniture of a new chic, with simplified, more geometrical shapes, more sober lines and even plainer decorations, giving pride of place to varieties of local as well as tropical woods. The State’s commissions are also opportunities for decorators to design luxurious pieces of furniture using noble materials such as lacquer, shagreen or parchment. Gilded bronzes are used for ornamentation and regain a prominent place in decoration design.

 

Emblematic locations, such as the Ministry of Agriculture or the French Embassy in Washington will host large decorative projects, highlighting French craftsmanship and promoting the modernity of the country. 

15. André Groult, secrétaire à abattant, 1937, GME 9073 © Mobilier national, Isabel

 

Marc du Plantier, chauffeuse, circa 1953,
GMT 28369/4.
© Mobilier national, Isabelle Bideau

12. Raphaël Raffel dit Raphaël, Bureau, 1955, GME 12556. © Mobilier national, Isabell

 

Raphaël Raffel also known as Raphaël,
Desk, 1955, GME 12556.
© Mobilier national, Isabelle Bideau

11. Marc du Plantier, chauffeuse, vers 1953, GMT 28369_4. © Mobilier national, Isabelle B

 

André Groult, secretary desk, 1937, GME 9073
© Mobilier national, Isabelle Bideau

Revelation of the major commissions for the 1937 Exposition Internationale


The 1937 Exposition Internationale is the 7th and last major Paris exhibition, gathering  forty-four nations. It is an opportunity for France to praise the excellence of French fine arts and to support the economy of luxury by promoting, among other sectors, haute couture, jewelry, and the art of decorators that was preponderant. Decorators appeared in several pavilions and worked together to illustrate their own style as well as the aesthetic considerations of their time.

19. Palais de l’Elysée, salon des aides de camps vers 1957, présentant une table de
20. Suzanne Guiguichon, vue de l’ensemble de mobilier de chambre © Mobilier national, D

 

Élysée Palace, salon des aides de camps circa 1957,
featuring a Gilbert Poillerat table. © Mobilier national, DR

 

Suzanne Guiguichon, picture of the bedroom furniture ensemble
© Mobilier national, DR

Supporting artist decorators: the State’s commissions in times of war


As the war was approaching, from 1939, national manufactures were transferred to Aubusson, while Mobilier national moved its most precious collections far from Paris. The economic crisis forced the State to implement a support policy for the industry of luxury. However, furniture remained at the forefront of national wealth and funds are made available to acquire a few “signature” pieces made by the fashionable decorators of the time.

4. Paul Follot, bureau, acajou de Cuba, 1937, GME 8943. © Mobilier national, Isabelle Bid

Paul Follot, desk, Cuban mahogany, 1937, GME 8943. © Mobilier national, Isabelle Bideau

8. Dominique et Paul Cressent, meuble d’appui, 1947-1948, GME 10757. © Mobilier nationa

Dominique and Paul Cressent,
support furniture piece, 1947-1948, GME 10757.
© Mobilier national, Isabelle Bideau

 

The furniture ensembles and the return of large decorative programs


Right after the war, several artist decorators are called to work on major projects. First, the Hotel Kinsky, rue Saint-Dominique, is rearranged to host the Direction Générale des Arts et des Lettres, the equivalent of our present-day Ministry of Culture. The Château de Rambouillet will also be the object of an important restoration project. André Arbus will orchestrate the decoration as a coherent whole where each object responds to and completes one another in perfect harmony.

Cabinet de travail d'un attaché d'ambassade par Raphaël.jpg

Raphaël Raffel also known as Raphaël, Desk, 1955, GME 12556.
© Mobilier national, DR

17. Jean-Gabriel Daragnes et René Prou, vase Prou n°1, 1935, GML 5361 © Mobilier natio

Jean-Gabriel Daragnes and René Prou, Prou vase n°1, 1935, GML 5361
© Mobilier national

18. Bagues, applique à 2 lumières, GML 5463 © Mobilier national, Isabelle Bideau.jpg

“Bagues”, sconce with 2 lamps, GML 5463
© Mobilier national, Isabelle Bideau

14. Jacques Adnet et Gilbert Poillerat, candélabre à 4 lumières, années 1940, GML

Jacques Adnet and Gilbert Poillerat, candelabra with four arms, 1940s, GML 6115 002
© Mobilier national, Isabelle Bideau

29. Esquisse du projet de scénographie imaginée par Vincent Darré © Maison Vincent

Esquisse du projet de scénographie imaginée par Vincent Darré
© Maison Vincent Darré

 

Auriol at the Elysée: Modernizing the presidential palace


The arrival in 1947 of Vincent Auriol at the presidency of the Fourth French Republic gave rise to a large renovation program at the Élysée Palace. As unrivalled art and contemporary decoration connoisseurs, the presidential couple moved into the Palace and signed a new page of the Élysée’s aesthetic history.

The 1950s: from decoration to design


After the supremacy of decorator ensembliers in the 1940s, the 1950s see the rise of pieces that were definitely autonomous and reusable in all places or circumstances. For a few more years, more traditional and luxurious pieces will stand alongside the up-and-coming furniture pieces with simpler lines and materials. Ensembles are not abandoned altogether, but they adapt to new lifestyles, even at the highest level
of the State.