Since it formally reopened last year, Musée du Verre François Décorchemont has received a number of glass collections and this month, it celebrates Jean and Dominique Vitrat’s donation, which resurrects a forgotten glass manufacturer François-Théodore Legras (1839-1916), a competitor of Gallé, Lalique, Baccarat and Daum. The 1880’s, the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods are represented by 150 objects and more precious archives on the company, based in Saint Denis and Pantin, which counted 1 300 workers and 10 ovens. I had never heard of this museum which is very pretty, with turn of the century collections focused on “pâte de verre” and a few rooms of contemporary creations. It is named after the artist Décorchemont (1880-1971), who lived in Conches and made stained glass windows as well as vases in pâte de verre.
The production at Legras was mostly popular, with tableware and souvenir bottles, but they also developed an artistic side with enameled decors and engraved flowers and landscapes. The archives were lost in a fire in 1950 but research has enabled passionate collectors, such as the Vitrat couple, to give their identity to many pieces. François Théodore Legras was President of Chambre syndicale des Maîtres de Verreries et de cristalleries de France in 1877 and he was an influent member of the jury in London, Saint Louis and Paris for the universal exhibitions. His production is huge with many perfume bottles and liquor carafes, and the 148 pieces recently acquired concentrate on the years 1880-1920.
We were welcomed by Christian Gobert, the deputy mayor in charge of culture, who fought for 25 years for the project of the museum, and Eric Louet, the director, who has a unique sense for designing exhibitions as we discovered during the visit. The museum counts only three employees and was set in the 1990’s in a retirement home, formerly a Benedictine abbey. It owns 700 glass pieces which vary from stained glass to vases and bottles and was made very attractive with modest resources.
One of the most original pieces in the collection is “Man in Profile”, by Henry Cros in pâte de verre, bought from Talabardon et Gauthier. It is shown along a “Lamp for a Mosque” by Philippe-Joseph Brocard and Oriental style glasses by François Eugène Rousseau. A landscape by Daum, a vase by Lalique, a lamp by Gallé are all good illustrations of the between-the-wars style. And this is when François Décorchemont, who was born in Conches, enters the picture with a chameleon vase and two little cups in molded pâte de verre (1925-1933). His stained glass windows created for the Crédit Agricole bank in 1948, are irresistible with their daily farming scenes, fields and animals.
The Schneider glass manufactory in Epinay sur Seine, is also represented with many pieces designed by Charles and Ernest Schneider. They were discovered in Paris at the 1925 Universal Exhibition and subsequently bought by Americans. The collection here was offered by the painter Barlach Heuer who was among the amateurs to rediscover this style in the 1980’s.
The presence of numerous stained glass windows in the collection is due to the post war reconstructions of churches and the workshop of Gabriel Loire which opened near Chartres in 1946. Paul and Jacques Bony present their glass windows in Parisian galleries and work with contemporary artists such as Matisse, Rouault and Braque for Varengeville sur Mer for instance. In the 1950’s it became more and more abstract.
A photographer, Thierry de Beaumont (1958-2022) who specialized in artists’ studios all his life, died last year. His family has given his archives to the museum and a number of glass artists are exhibited with Jean Michel Othoniel in 2003 and Matei Negreanu in 2008.
The museum is charming because of its location in the village of Conches whose church has very pretty stained glass windows. But also because of its size and the profound dedication of everyone who works there. Christophe Gobert is the perfect example of a town councilor who had a vision and achieved it patiently in 25 years.
The drive from Paris is 1 hr 50 mns and the countryside around is extremely pretty. You can visit château de Champs de Bataille or château d’Anet on the way back. Until November 26, Wednesday to Sunday 2pm to 6 pm, Musée du Verre François Décorchemont in Conches en Ouche.
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