The only mistake with the new show at Mobilier National called “Le Chic, Decorative arts from 1930 to 1960” is its title which could deter anybody to go and visit. But so many friends told me it was a great exhibition that I went, after seeing the Art Deco show at Chaillot. And it was, in a way, a welcome sequel. Two hundred pieces of decoration designed by André Arbus, Jean Pascaud, Jules Leleu, Marc du Plantier… are set in decors and perfect salons by Vincent Darré, the trendy decorator who was with Christian Louboutin and Eva Ionesco, a very young irreverent kid in the Palace years of the 1980’s. The result is a fun, fascinating and impressive show of the French savoir faire, including the war years when the collections of Mobilier Naitonal were safely transported to Aubusson and other storage in the provinces. 129 works were restored especially by 50 artisans and the videos showing their work are fascinating. Ateliers de France who defend French artisans is a partner in the show.
When you first enter the show, Georges de Bardière’s “Rognon desk” (kidney) in loupe d’amboine and ivory from 1933 immediately welcomes you with a strong modern touch. A metal lamp by Ruhlmann sits on it. It is followed by the decors for the French Embassy in Washington by Gustave Jaulmes with four tapestries of the Fleuves of France and matching armchairs. René Prou‘s modern armchair conceived as a sculpture, the tapestries by Charles Martin, for Manufacture de Beauvais in 1932-33, George de Feure‘s avant-garde couch in sycamore and duraluminium in 1937, André Groult ‘s secretary in ebony and galuchat from 1937. The main gallery is a series of discoveries and one has the same astonishments as in a very high class flea market.
A fun wall is lined with armchair tapestries designed by Jacques-Emile Blanche for the Manufacture des Gobelins in 1933; André Arbus’ satin méridienne, Jean Pascaud’s chest in pear tree and glass for presenting Ravinet d’Enfer silver tea and coffee sets, rival with the most impressive tapestries by Edmond Ceria, “The road to India”, Lurçat’s “Winter” and Louis Billotey’s “The Departure of the horsemen” in the main staircase. A few period films by Jacques Becker, Jacques Tati… show the shock of new decors from 1937 to 1958.
The first pieces of furniture with lights included are made, like the Marcel Bergue desk in 1937 and the Maxime Old chest in 1943, are followed by suspensions by Galey Frères and Jean Perzel. I loved Georges Goetz’ chairs covered with Aubusson tapestries from 1947, made for Hotel Kinsky on rue Saint Dominique. This private house built in 1769 by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux was redecorated in 1947 as a show room for French talents such as Arbus, Adnet, Poillerat, etc. During the war, decorators were subsidized and since exotic woods could not be imported anymore, metal and more modern materials were developed like in the “ladies desk” by Jacques Adnet which is made of painted wood and gilt metal in 1941.
The French state was incredibly active at restoring Château de Rambouillet for the President of the Republic Vincent Auriol who encouraged all artisans to create new decors, for the Pavillon de chasse in Marly and for the Elysée Palace. Jean Royère, Marc du Plantier design modern lamps and tapestries. A chaise longue and a library by Janette Laverrière are incredibly modern in 1956. In the catalog, a photograph by Cecil Beaton of Madame Vincent Auriol at the Elysée represents well this resurrection of style in 1950.
What is so successful in this exhibition is the “ensembles” which are recreated. The wealth of Mobilier National is especially visible through the magnificent tapestries and perfectly restored furniture. Many videos show the minutious work of the 50 conservators involved, who were hired during lockdown and thus had two years to revive these treasures. This is an exhibition not to be missed and you can take all generations, it is full of color and fun items.
Until January 29 at Mobilier National
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