The Delicate Touch of René Lalique

Rene Lalique’s life changed the landscape of jewelry and fine glass such as perfume bottles at the turn of the 20th century in Europe. Lalique was born in the Marne region of France and after the death of his father, became an apprentice of Louis Aucoc and attended classes at École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs and soon became an independent jeweler for houses like Cartier, Boucheron and Jacta. As he became popular, the intersection of the Arts and Crafts movement, cubism, Japonisme and most importantly art nouveaux and art deco landed him as a top industrialist and designer of the time.

Art nouveaux is were Lalique thrived as an artist, making beautifully ornamented jewelry and glass pieces that refused French conformities surrounding sexuality, heritage and high academia. The art nouveaux movement and Lalique alike were moved greatly by Japonisme, an art scene that was fascinated with the simplicity, craftsmanship and fascination with nature that came over from Japan after the end of the Edo period in 1868. With his newfound connection to the beauty of the natural world some of his best pieces were created. At the time he was considered a genius by many from the way in which he industrialized the luxury jewelry and glass industry. He earned the title “inventor of modern jewelry” and was a favorite among socialites of western Europe and America. In Europe, the height of his career was centered around the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle, but that certainly was not the end of his career or really the climax either. As an independent artist, maybe, but after he had an industrial level glass factory built in Combs-la-Ville, France, he entered a new level of international respect from like-minded industrialists, especially in America.

Vase Anénomes 1912

Flacon Heliotrope 1909

After the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition in 1904, Lalique’s popularity skyrocketed in America and had all the socialites and elites of America buying up his opulent pieces. Lalique made sure that his glass pieces and bottles were of the highest quality in the world. With his industrialization of glass art as well as luxury business in general, his name and his mark became ubiquitous with quality and beauty. From his shift to art deco in his later years his designs became more and more technical, yet more readily produced by his factory. Lalique wanted to move towards art for the masses and that paired with perfumer Françoise Coty who had his perfume in department stores in France. Lalique brought many of his products down in price with the industrialization of various glass pieces as well as his jewelry which made it massively accessible for a growing middle class. With the masses in mind, the fragrance industry in general has come a long way in producing perfumes for every niche and price range. Still, to get a perfume whose bottle is of the highest quality is madly expensive for the average consumer. Although it is sad to see the luxury industry sticking to its capitalist roots so strongly, Lalique’s designs like the 1909 Flacon Heliotrope made a monumental shift in perfume accessibility. As elites like Alice Roosevelt, President Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter, bought up his jewelry, his presentation at the 1912 Paris glass exhibition elevated him to a master glassmaker. To improve his business even more, he partnered with Haviland and Co, who made porcelain in the United States and ended up selling many more vases and larger pieces than he previously had. Nonetheless, Lalique ended up being a huge success and a massive influence of the art deco era in his later years. Through his art, he united upper and middle classes like never before and his pieces kept their high value and luxurious prestige until the stock market crash in 1929. Lalique’s unique approach to jewelry and glass art makes him a master of luxury and simplicity that is hard to come by to this day.       

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