Louis Majorelle

Toul 1859 - Nancy 1926

The French furniture designer Louis Majorelle was born in Toul, near Nancy, in 1859. His father, Auguste, who also designed elegant furniture in the 18th-century style, had his own business for making it, Maison Majorelle in Nancy. Louis Majorelle studied painting from 1877 at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris under Jean-François Millet but, after his father died, he returned to Nancy in 1879 and took over the family business, leaving the style of furniture at first unchanged.
In the 1890s, however, Louis Majorelle fell increasingly under the sway of the new Art nouveau style forms, which had been introduced in Nancy specifically by glass designers. He was especially taken with the nature motifs featured in Émile Gallé's work. Louis Majorelle's furniture is structurally more innovative than Gallé's works yet both reveal similarities in the use of intarsia motifs. Louis Majorelle set great store by craftsmanship although he also increasingly turned to mass-production methods for making his furniture, which reduced production costs, thus lowering retail prices.
In 1900 Majorelle showed an interior he had designed at the "Exposition Universelle et Internationale de Paris". His designs became more extravagant. From 1900 Louis Majorelle also designed metal objects such as the feet and fastenings of glass lampshades by Auguste Daum; at the same time Daum Frères made glass elements for Majorelle's own collections.
In 1901, a number of firms and workshops making Art nouveau crafts objects united to form the École de Nancy. Emile Gallé was its first head with Louis Majorelle as his deputy. In 1916, during the first world war, the Majorelle factory sustained severe damage from fire. Louis Majorelle fled to Paris and did not return to Nancy until the war was over, when he again took up his work.
In the 1920s his designs became increasingly simple and more formal, matching the new stylistic trend set by Art déco. In 1925 Majorelle was again involved with the important "Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Moderns" in Paris and also belonged to the jury.
Collaborating with his factory manager, Alfred Lévy, Majorelle designed the interior of the Nancy Pavilion for the exhibition.
After Louis Majorelle died in 1926, Alfred Lévy became director of Maison Majorelle, which continued to make expensive and elaborate as well as more modest and reasonably priced objects. The firm closed down in 1956.

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