GABRIEL ARGY-ROUSSEAU (1885-1963)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Gabriel Argy-Rousseau (1885-1953)The name Gabriel Argy-Rousseau appeared for the first time in 1914 at the Exposition des Artistes Française in Paris. Critics and the public alike responded enthusiastically to his debut and recognized the artist’s originality, the idiosyncrasies of his work, and his extraordinary talent at working the little known and little practiced material of pâte de verre (glass paste). Argy-Rousseau himself recognized that "the process of creating ‘pâte de verre’ is certainly the most artistic and the most personal of all the methods of working in glass and crystal because it allows the artist to easily convey all his thoughts.”But exactly who was this unknown artist who suddenly stepped forward 10 years after the death of Emile Gallé and during a period in which modern art had not yet made its mark on the applied arts, which were still dominated by the Art Nouveau style?Gabriel Argy-Rousseau, whose real name is Joseph Gabriel Rousseau, was born in 1885 under very modest circumstances. He entered the Ecole Nationale de Sèvres in 1902 and it was his training during this formative period that would influence and shape his career as an artist. This included, above all, his introduction to pâte de verre thanks to Jean Cros, his classmate and the son of Henri Cros, the artist who essentially rediscovered pâte de verre at the end of the 19th century. Argy-Rousseau left the school four years later with a diploma in ceramic engineering. He subsequently set up his own studio and began to show his first works in 1914 under the pseudonym Gabriel Argy-Rousseau, having married the sister of his friend Plato Argyriades. In 1923, he partnered with a major Paris gallery to found the company `Les Pâte de Verre d’Argy-Rousseau’.Within fifteen years, he created some 300 models that included vases, lamps, lanterns, and bowls, a number of which can be considered masterpieces. The 1929 economic crisis, however, significantly slowed his production and the company was ultimately dissolved in 1931.Argy-Rousseau derived much of his inspiration from nature’s more humble specimen, especially from flowers and insects, for example for the `Violette de Parme’ (Lot 91) or the `Fleurs de Chardons’ (Lot 108) as well as the `Roses’ (Lot 94), the `Chrysanthèmes’ (Lot 92) and the `Papyrus’ pieces (Lot 76). The progression of his style presents itself in these designs: while flexible at first and still under the influence of Art Nouveau, his designs quickly became more rigid as flowers or insects are shown pressed against glass or pinned in a box.Having already studied Greek art at Sèvres, and always having been exposed to it in his family, Argy-Rousseau considered the Greek style his true passion and a permanent influence in his work throughout his career. The well-known vase `Le Jardin des Hespèrides’ (Lot 67 and 115) is the best example as it resembles the Attic vases of the VI. century BC with the hieratic pose of the dancing figures. It is as if their movements are suspended in midair with nature itself suggested by branches and the bucolic landscape. In the same spirit, the vases `La Danse’ (Lot 109) and `Libations` (Lot 46), although dated around the same time, offer a different interpretation of the same subject, as does `Tragi-Comique’ with its grimacing masks of tragedy (Lot 110). One of the most remarkable works of Greek inspiration, however, is the vase `A la Chevelure’ (Lot 97), so moving in the figure’s contemplative attitude and intensity of expression. An artist with many different facets to his work, Argy-Rousseau never ceases to amaze us with the precision of the layout of his designs and the effects of perspective, all of which are combined with rich colors in the vase `Vagues et Poissons’ (Lot 82), a true masterpiece. But it is also important to mention the rare table lamp `Oiseaux de Paradis’ (Lot 69) where, against a bright background, these colorful birds appear seized in flight. On another note, the vases `Loups dans la Neige (Lot 78) and `Lions’ (Lot 112) evoke a strong sense of power, and the artist conjures an atmosphere of fear and drama. Despite the economic crisis of 1929, Argy-Rousseau continued to produce beautiful works including `Jeunesse’ (Lot 43) and `Farniente’ (Lot 45), two works that exemplify the characteristics of the Art Deco style.But how far would Argy-Rousseau’s creative inspiration have gone without the technical resources at his disposal? Argy-Rousseau was not only a designer of models but he was also an inventor of a technique that was personal to him starting from piecework molds, the coloration achieved in the mass and on the surface after firing. In fact, Argy-Rousseau designed everything himself down to the colorful mixtures of oxides. These choices not only reflect his extraordinary sense of color and in their respective harmonies and densities were very personal to him. He had a particular fondness for fiery reds, and yet, depending on his moods, he often incorporated softer pastel shades. His talent as a colorist makes it possible to recognize his work at first glance.Light is also essential in enhancing Argy-Rousseau’s work and in bringing it to life. Through the subtle play of light, he was able to create a sort of magical and luminescent quality in his work whereby nothing is left to chance. The vase `Feuillage Moderne’ (Lot 60) is a fine examples of this.The collection presented here at the auction is exemplary in its selection, number, variety, and the quality of works. It reflects the ability of an artist to express his emotions and poetical intentions while sharing these sentiments with the viewer. It also allows us to track the progression of the artist’s style, which lies in harmony with his time. But perhaps above all, this collection shows us the sensitivity of a man and his creative inventiveness that spans from naturalism to abstraction, reflecting its modernity. Argy-Rousseau stands as the great master of pâte de verre who brought together the expertise of the hand and the creative vision of the mind.Janine Bloch-DermantAuthor of Argy-Rousseau: Glassware as Art, London, 1991.
GABRIEL ARGY-ROUSSEAU (1885-1963)

A 'JEUNESSE' VASE, CIRCA 1932

Details
GABRIEL ARGY-ROUSSEAU (1885-1963)
A 'JEUNESSE' VASE, CIRCA 1932
pâte-de-verre
5 ¾ in. (14.5 cm.) high
signed in the mold G. ARGY-ROUSSEAU FRANCE
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.
Sale room notice
Please note that the artist's year of death is 1953, not 1963, as noted in the sale catalogue.

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Lot Essay

cf. J. Bloch-Dermont, Les Pâte De Verre G. Argy-Rousseau Catalogue Raisonné, Paris, 1990, p. 222, no. 32.03 for another vase of this model.

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