When I’m not drooling over the vintage jewelry on 1stdibs, the vintage and antiques website, I’m checking out the antique furniture. I love the sinuous shapes of art nouveau from the late 19th and early 20th century. Louis Majorelle is one the key furniture designers of the period, and his works are often featured on 1stdibs. If you’ve been to the musée d’Orsay, you have seen many fine examples of Majorelle’s work in their displays of arts décoratifs.
Majorelle was born in Toul on September 26, 1859. His father, also a furniture designer, moved the family to Nancy, which became the center for art nouveau in France. Louis Majorelle was in the midst of his studies at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris when his father died unexpectedly. He returned home to run the family business.
At first, Majorelle produced knock-offs of Louis XV-style furniture. In 1890, influenced by fellow-artisan Émile Gallé, Majorelle began to incorporate items inspired by nature – stems, leaves, flowers, and insects. He brought in a master ironworker to add details to his cabinetry and teamed with the Daum glassworks to create beautiful lamps to complement the furniture. The 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris brought Majorelle clients from around the world. He and other artisans from the Lorraine region founded the École de Nancy, a collaborative group that promoted the art nouveau aesthetic and sought to maintain high standards of craftsmanship. Majorelle’s own home, built on a large plot of land opposite the factory, was the perfect opportunity for him to create a harmonious art nouveau environment from doorknob to gable.
World War I brought a series of disasters to Majorelle. First, there was a fire in 1916 that destroyed some of the factories, the fresh lumber, the firm’s sketches, equipments, molds, and archives, wiping out 50 years of history. In 1917, the bombing of Nancy destroyed their shop, and their store in Lille was looted by advancing troops. Majorelle gave up working in the Lorraine region and moved to Paris, using the facilities of his fellow craftsmen.
Majorelle died on January 15, 1926. The company had never really recovered from the war and his home and property were sold off one lot at a time after his death. The factories closed definitively in 1931. The house was carved up and added on to over the years. The city of Nancy now owns it and it trying to turn the clock back.
Read more about him: Louis Majorelle: Master of Art Nouveau Design