French glass artist Émile Gallé was born in Nancy, 8 May 1846 and is considered to be one of the major forces in the French Art Nouveau movement. Gallé was the son of a faience and furniture manufacturer and studied philosophy, botany, and drawing in his youth. He later learned glassmaking at Meisenthal and came to work at his father’s factory Maison Gallé-Reinemer in Nancy, following the Franco-Prussian War.
His early work was executed using clear glass decorated with enamel, but he soon turned to an original style featuring heavy, opaque glass carved or etched with plant motifs, often in two or more colours as cameo glass.
- In 1877, he assumed his father’s role as director of the Maison Gallé-Reinemer, and became Secretary-General for the Société Centrale d’Horticulture de Nancy. His career took off after his work received praise at the Paris Exhibition of 1878.
- Within a decade of another successful showing at the Paris Exhibition of 1889, Gallé had reached international fame and his style, with its emphasis on naturalism and floral motifs, was at the forefront of the emerging Art Nouveau movement.
He continued to incorporate experimental techniques into his work, such as metallic foils and air bubbles, and also revitalized the glass industry by establishing a workshop to mass-produce his and other artists’, designs.
- Together with other notable glass artists including Antonin Daum and Louis Majorelle, they founded the Art Nouveau movement known as École de Nancy (The Nancy School).
- Gallé died in Nancy, on 23 September, 1904. After his death, the factory continued to prosper employing 300 workers and artisans at its height, including the notable glassmaker Eugène Rosseau, and remained in operation until 1936.
Today, many of Gallé’s works are kept at the Musée de l’École de Nancy.
“Is It Art?”