Face, family and factories
This is personal but I love Rene Lalique. He was a genius. His private life was crazy. His output was phenomenal. There was a rumour that he had a twin brother otherwise how else could he have produced that number of designs?
A sense of his intensity radiates from this photograph.
No surprise therefore to learn that he once burned down his Paris apartment when molding his first ever perfume bottle at the kitchen stove.
He made sure to rescue the bottle but lost much of the apartment.
Of all his achievements the greatest must surely be the switch from one-off masterpieces in jewellery for wealthy individuals, to mass produced designs in glass for all manner of everyday and decorative use.
At age 48 in 1908 he rented his first factory at Combs-la-Ville. After the war he built a factory at Wingen-sur-Moder, Alsace. Formerly in German territory, Alsace became French after 1918.
Compared with son Marc and Marc’s daughter Marie-Claude, Rene’s new designs each year far outnumbered their combined total. Rene died in 1945, Marc in 1973 and Marie-Claude 2003.
The war to end all wars cost not only the lives of sixteen million souls but catapulted working people into a world of opportunity, responsibility and ownership formerly out of range. Production switched to ‘war and medical’ materials until it was resumed in 1919.
Today Lalique is owned by a Swiss company. They have opened a museum dedicated to Lalique. The museum is located where he built his greatest factory, Wingen-sur-Moder.
Irrepressible longing for creation
Rene Lalique’s contribution to the world of glass is quite outstanding. Unmatched, in our opinion, by any maker before or since. Our great fortune is that born in 1860 he would still be in his prime during the first three decades of the 20th century.
This era of freedoms started with secessionist movements in the art world.
The most obvious of Rene lalique influences can be seen in the styles adopted by his son Marc and later his grand-daughter Marie-Claude.
Less obvious but perhaps more important were his influences on contemporary glass makers’ manufacturing technology. The technical advances in the industry led to a boom in pressed glass objects now available at low cost for the mass market.
Henri Clouzet, French film director of the 1950’s has been quoted as saying “Rene Lalique had the gift of sharing a frisson of new beauty with the world.”
Nicholas Dawes author of “Lalique Glass”, probably the best book on the subject in the English language, quotes William Morris, a renowned British designer as describing “the irrepressible longing for creation” of Rene Lalique.
Rene Lalique Art Nouveau
A sensuous style popular before and after the first war.
Objects produced using the cire perdu (lost wax) technique were stunning in appearance but expensive to make.
This fabulous example in the Art Nouveau style was made in 1922. The Felix Marcilhac tome identifies it as Deux Figures Femmes Aillées. It is the only known example.
The manufacturing technique was to carve a master in wax. The master was encased in soft clay. The clay mold hardens around the wax master. The mold is heated. The wax runs out. Glass is blown into the mold. The whole cools. The mold clay is painstakingly picked away from the glass. Each mold could be used only once.
These objects were made for exhibitions and special commissions only. Inevitably they have become the Holy Grail for collectors.
FIORET PARIS medallion
At the other end of the value scale is this charming medallion. It depicts a maiden to the front with a different pose to the reverse. It was manufactured in hundreds for the house of FIORET PARIS to adorn their perfume bottles and ladies boudoirs.
This one was introduced in 1924, another design in the art nouveau style. Reference: Marcilhac Fioret 2.
Rene Lalique Art Deco
Introduced in 1927 this ‘vase’ or footed bowl is in the angular repeated pattern Art Deco style that was the next great fashion to follow Art Nouveau.
René Lalique Opalescent Glass ‘Beautreillis’ Vase. Etched makers mark, ‘R. LALIQUE FRANCE no.989’. Book reference: Marcilhac 989.
More Art Deco. The design of this perfume bottle cleverly retains Lalique’s trademark iconic budgerigars. Other names: Love Birds, Perruches (Fr.).
Introduced in 1929 this frosted glass perfume bottle and atomiser was manufactured for the house of Marcel Franck.
Engraved makers mark, ‘R LALIQUE FRANCE’. Book reference: Marcilhac 5.
More books and publications have been written about the works of Rene Lalique than perhaps any other individual artist. They number in thousands. More museums are dedicated to the output of the Lalique company alone than any other maker.
This is the standard work cataloguing everything by Rene Lalique, available only in the French language.
“R. Lalique Glass” by Felix Marcilhac
You can buy, sell, discover Lalique on our website.
Rene Lalique masterpieces in glass for sale on this link
World’s largest online gallery of RENE LALIQUE glass
With apologies to everyone who knows better we have used the spelling Rene in place of the correct French spelling René throughout. We hope you have enjoyed reading our introduction to one of the world’s greatest artistic designers.
More on manufacture, marks, polishing and alteration, forms and functions and the universal appeal of Rene Lalique glass will follow in later blogs. We will never tire of this man’s works or his story.