French Design 101

Artsy Collecting
Nov 7, 2013 4:25PM

In honor of The Salon Art + Design fair, we decided to brush up on some basic design principles that originated in France and affected 20th-century design on an international level. Read on for an overview of Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Post-War French design, along with some key galleries, designers, and works at this year’s fair.

Art Nouveau

Originating in France and Belgium at the end of the 19th century, Art Nouveau was an international style that disseminated throughout art, architecture, and design in Europe and the United States in the period leading up to World War I. Art Nouveau is characterized by colorful, elaborate ornamentation including sinuous lines and exotic flora and foliage and is evocative of traditional Japanese art and Rococo. Instead of designing isolated objects or creating singular works of art, creators at this time instead believed in the interior as a total environment. In Germany and Austria, the movement was known as Jugendstil, in Spain, Modernisme, and in the United States it was synonymous with Tiffany Studios.

Art Nouveau Designers/Artists to Know: Louis Comfort Tiffany, Émile Decoeur, Raoul Lachenal, Gustav Klimt, and Egon Schiele.

Art Nouveau Booths at The Salon: Oscar Graf offers English Art Nouveau, Jason Jacques shows representative ceramic works, Richard Nagy Ltd. shows Austrian designs, and Lillian Nassau shows American works including Tiffany.

Highlights at the Fair:

Émile Decoeur, Group of Émile Decoeur Vases and Bowls, 1901-1930, at Jason Jacques Inc.

Egon Schiele, Gerti in an Orange Hat, 1910, at Richard Nagy Ltd.

Tiffany Studios, Poppy Table Lamp, circa 1906, at Lillian Nassau LLC

Art Deco

Although the term Art Deco was coined in the 1960s, it refers to art and design created in the time between the World Wars and particularly references the art shown at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris. The broadly defined style grew out of post-WWI French endeavors to stir up commercial success and put France back on top internationally as tastemakers and leaders in luxury trade. At its peak in 1925, the Art Deco style at the Expo that year was meant to be purely modern; works featured industrial imagery, geometric shapes, bold colors, and themes of recreation and luxury. Processes like inlay, lacquer, dinanderie, and enamel are commonly found in Art Deco designs. Art forms and imagery from East Asia, parts of Africa, and Egypt were also influential in its formation, as were previous and contemporary art movements including Cubism, Fauvism, and Constructivism.

Art Deco Designers/Artists to Know: André Sornay, Pierre Chareau, Maurice Marinot, Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann, Eugène Printz, Jean Dunand, and Gaston Suisse.

Art Deco Booths at The Salon: To see some great examples of Art Deco check out Galerie Alain Marcepoil, Vallois SAS, and Galerie Marcilhac.

Highlights at the Fair:

André Sornay, Four bridges, circa 1936, at Galerie Alain Marcepoil

Pierre Chareau, Bookshelf table, circa 1928, at Vallois SAS

Eugène Printz, Pyramidal commode, 1925, at Galerie Marcilhac


In the wake of World War II an international design boom occurred due to the need for affordable housing and furniture. Industrial advancements like jet travel played an influential role and spurred an optimistic wave of productivity. Plastic and other synthetic materials replaced wood in socially conscious designs. Prefabricated wartime structures were used as models to solve housing problems and pre-war Modernist visions were resurrected due to their social considerations.

Post-War Designers/Artists to Know: Pierre Jeanneret, Jean Prouvé, Charlotte Perriand, Le Corbusier, and Jean Royère.

Post-War Booths at The Salon: Galerie DOWNTOWN, Galerie Chastel-Maréchal.

Highlights at the Fair:

Jean Royère, Pair of “Persane” wall sconces, circa. 1953, at Galerie Chastel-Maréchal

Le Corbusier, Quatre Femmes, 1950, at Galerie Zlotowski

Charlotte Perriand“Täiba”  bookshelves, 1963, at Galerie DOWNTOWN

Explore The Salon: Art + Design 2013 on Artsy.

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