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JEAN DUNAND (1877-1942)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE AMERICAN COLLECTIONA distinguished collection unveiledThis exceptional group of works comprises icons of French Art Deco and Modernism, emblematic pieces by the most notable designers and architects of the early 20th century. The collection reflects an astute appreciation of the emergence of a new, modern world that found its form in the 1920s. The artists represented here – Pierre Chareau, Jean Dunand, Eileen Gray, Pierre Legrain, Jean Puiforcat, and Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann – are among the most representative of an era in which France led the world as a hub of creativity of the highest quality and sophistication, a period of little more than a decade through which the country’s output attracted the attention of an appreciative, elite international clientele. Pierre Chareau took an interest, during his formative years, in the aesthetic principles and theories developed at the turn of the century by pioneers of Art Nouveau, of the Glasgow School, and of the Wiener Werkstatte, and he made a particular study of Josef Hoffmann. The present collection includes some of his most celebrated creations, demonstrating a singular artistic vision. Pierre Chareau's furniture designs reflect the perspective of an architect, with an emphasis on line and on structural forms, emphasised by the play of contrasting materials such as wood and metal. His desk and stool 'MB405' exemplify this in their distillation of tradition, modernity and functionality. His metal 'Religieuse' floor-lamp of around 1927 is at once a truly sculptural light and a technical tour de force – a high point of Chareau's use of this material and a work of the greatest rarity. The model has not been seen at auction for several decades; the only example on public view is in the Musée National d'Art Moderne de Paris.Eileen Gray, foremost among the mythical figures of this era, is represented by her ‘Transat’ chair from 1927-1930, a design that combines the very greatest refinement – elegance, lightness, finesse, purity of line in black lacquer and hide – with avant-garde ideas that were defining their times, evident in her emphasis on the structural elements of this chair. It was conceived in the context of the furnishing of the villa E1027 and Eileen Gray references the classic deck-chair, a design of the most pure functionalism, as she plays on the marine theme, calling to mind the contemporary engagement with water sports, the outdoors, and the popularity of a new generation of ocean liners.Pierre Legrain’s career aligned with that of Eileen Gray through the patronage of the notable collector Jacques Doucet, whose friend Jeanne Tachard was also to become a client for Legrain. An erudite figure, trained as a draughtsman, he tried his hand at a number of artistic media, collaborating in the present instance with the great Art Deco silversmith Jean Puiforcat in the creation of the canteen commissioned by Jeanne Tachard for her house at Celle-Saint-Cloud. In this instance, Legrain combines precious and traditional materials, silver and ebony, with a synthetic modern material, Bakelite, one of the first plastics invented in the early years of the 20th century, in a colour to match that of coral. Jean Dunand adds to the coherence of this collection through an impressive selection of eggshell lacquer vases and a low table that echoes these vessels. In these technically very demanding pieces, we see the virtuosity of this Art Deco artist, a master of metalwork and lacquer. With the instinct of a sculptor, he creates the purest of shapes and volumes on which he develops stylised, geometric decorations, elegant exercises in line and texture which come alive in the play of light across their surfaces.. And, finally, we consider Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, whose work represents a high classicism within Art Deco. Sharing with his contemporaries a concern for fluidity, simplicity of line and volume, and perfection of proportions, he reinterprets the great traditions of the French decorative arts, but in a purified and always sophisticated manner that responded to modern sensibilities. His imposing desk, with its clean, geometric silhouette, leather-topped, veneered in ebony, and with counterpoints of chromium plated bronze, is a perfect example of his vision. The appearance at auction of a collection such as this, comprising works of the highest calibre and that has remained private for so many years, constitutes an event of real significance, one that should surely stimulate the curiosity of enthusiasts and collectors of Art Deco and that should also inspire the imagination of those institutions and individuals, be they collectors, decorators, or dealers, in search of the greatest masterpieces from across categories. Christie's is delighted and honoured to unveil and present these worksJEAN DUNAND, LACQUER AND DINANDERIE MASTER“There seems to be no limit to M. Dunand’s enthusiasm and interest. He apparently recognizes no rules and bows to no traditions.” Amalie Busk Deady, The Craftsman, January 1911Jean Dunand is widely recognized as one of France’s leading decorative artists during the Art Deco era. Born in Lancy, Switzerland, Dunand was only 14 when he began his formal artistic training at the Ecole des Arts Industriels in Geneva, where he studied sculpture and design. He received a grant to continue his studies after graduating and went to Paris in 1897, where he apprenticed with the renowned sculptor, Jean-Auguste Dampt (1854-1945). Dampt had an appreciation for the decorative arts and firmly believed that all artists should also be competent craftsmen. Dunand, the son of a goldsmith, readily agreed. He spent his summer vacations in Geneva with a local coppersmith, learning the intricacies of dinanderie, a special technique originated in Dinant, Belgium, for forming metal vessels.Although a gifted sculptor, for one of his works selected for the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle, Dunand decided to focus on his metalwork. His decision was soon vindicated when the Musée des Arts Décoratifs purchased one of his dinanderie vases for its permanent collection in 1904. Dunand received national acclaim and his dinanderie was regularly exhibited at the Salon de la Nationale des Beaux Arts and the Salon d’Automne.A problem facing all metalworkers was corrosion, and Dunand was determined to find an effective, yet artistic, method to combat the issue. He was intrigued by the Asian use of lacquer and was determined to master the skill. He roamed Paris, trying to find a local native artisan to serve as an instructor, but was unsuccessful, calling them all simply “varnishers.” He was about to admit defeat when he met Seizo Sugawara (1884-1937).Sugawara, born in Johoji, Japan and trained as a lacquerer, came to Paris to curate the lacquerware displayed in the Japanese exhibition at the 1900 Exposition Universelle. He decided to remain in Paris and hoped to make a living teaching the skills of his profession. Eileen Gray, around 1908, became Sugawara’s first prominent student. She introduced her instructor to Dunand, and in 1912, the two men came to an agreement: Sugawara would teach Dunand the secrets of lacquering metal and Dunand would give Sugawara classes in dinanderie.Sugawara gave Dunand 13 lessons over two months and the latter’s almost immediate expertise with the medium was absolutely remarkable. In short order, Dunand became one of the first western artists to master urushi, which is the Japanese word for both the sap used to make the lacquer and the finished object itself. Dunand continued to experiment and opened a lacquer studio in his workshop shortly after World War I. He was able to obtain a steady supply of urushi from the French colonies in Indochina and favored Asian assistants from that region, believing they were less susceptible to the health risks posed by the constant exposure to lacquer.Deeply influenced by the geometric and linear designs that soon became a tenet of the burgeoning Art Deco movement, Dunand first displayed his lacquered objects at the Galerie Georges Petit in 1921 and his works were prominently displayed at the 1925 Exposition Internationale. The vases offered here amply illustrate Dunand’s brilliance in the medium. The perfectly formed vessels enhanced with flawlessly applied lacquer in highly imaginative and unique motifs serve as incredible testimony to the artist’s talents.Jean Dunand was the first to introduce the use of crushed eggshell as a decorative element and it soon became a signature specialty of his workshop. His objects combining coquille d’oeuf and lacquer became so popular, Dunand maintained a chicken coop in the courtyard of his workshop to help meet the demand. The four vases presented here superbly display his brilliant craftsmanship and sense of design. The bold, geometric inlaid motifs of crushed white eggshell, against a pure black lacquered background and protected with two layers of clear lacquer, are among the most visually striking Art Deco objects ever produced. Each unique, they again demonstrate the meticulous skill and artistry that support Dunand’s reputation as one of the greatest decorative artists of his generation.
JEAN DUNAND (1877-1942)


JEAN DUNAND (1877-1942)
lacquered metal inlaid with eggshell
8 in. (20.3 cm.) high
Alder, Picart, Tajan, Paris, 15 June 1981, lot 181;
Jacques Mostini, Paris;
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1984.
For this vase illustrated:
F. Marcilhac, Jean Dunand: His Life and Works, London, 1991, p. 308, n. 1020.
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